NHGRI celebrates the10th anniversary of the Social and Behavioral Research Branch

National Human Genome Research Institute

National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


NHGRI celebrates the10th anniversary of the Social and Behavioral Research Branch

By Raymond MacDougall
Associate Director of Communications, Division of Intramural Research
10th year anniversary poster
Two decades ago, even as biological leaders worked to ramp up the Human Genome Project, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study prompted change in social scientists' approach to public health. Data in the CDC's 1993 study showed that the leading causes of death in the United States were from preventable factors - smoking, diet, alcohol use, sedentary life-style and accidents.
 
The confluence of two seemingly unrelated developments sparked a special area of health research - one that combined genomics and social and behavioral research. At the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), its leadership responded by launching the Social and Behavioral Research Branch (SBRB) as a branch of its Division of Intramural Research in December of 2003 - the year the Human Genome Project was completed.
 
The mission of this new intramural research branch would be to use innovative social and behavioral science methods to consider how emerging genomic advances might be directed to benefit public health and clinical practice.  Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, SBRB has spent the past few months reflecting on the place of social science research within NHGRI, which is recognized foremost as a bastion of basic research innovation.
 
"My Social and Behavioral Research Branch colleagues and I are interested in ways that genomic knowledge can be used to promote health, prevent disease and reduce health inequities," said SBRB Chief Colleen McBride, Ph.D. A behavioral epidemiologist, Dr. McBride has led SBRB since its start. "We in SBRB focus ahead to where genomic discovery is moving and then use innovative study designs and methods to consider how the public and clinicians can make use of these advances in ways that improve health." 

SBRB is composed of sections that are akin to those in the NHGRI's basic research branches. Each section or unit is headed by an investigator who envisions studies in focused domains and also mentors a team of trainees who will be the next wave of talent in this compelling research field.
 
 Under Dr. McBride's leadership, SBRB's investigators pursue a broad array of research focused on four research themes: Recent scientific advances of SBRB faculty include developing measures and using innovative social and behavioral research technologies. Some recent examples of SBRB achievements include:  SBRB 10th Anniversary Celebration

SBRB events have observed the 10th anniversary throughout the year. The culmination of the anniversary year will be a celebration on January 13, 2014 at the Natcher Conference Center, on NIH's Bethesda, Md., campus. Guest speakers for the anniversary celebration will be Richard Street, Ph.D., professor of communication, Texas A&M University, and director of the Health Communication and Decision-Making Program at Baylor College of Medicine; and Robert Green, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of genetics, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The speakers will discuss the future of genomic medicine through the lenses of genomics and social and behavioral science.
 
An afternoon exhibit hall with the theme of Genomics and Society will include posters and interactive exhibits to showcase innovative science of intramural and extramural projects and programs. For more about the SBRB 10th Anniversary celebration, visit http://www.genome.gov/27555812
 
For more about SBRB, go to www.genome.gov/11508935

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Posted: January 8, 2014