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Coalition to Educate Health Professionals about Genetics Names Executive Director

September 2000

The National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics (NCHPEG) - a national effort initiated by the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that includes more than 100 organizations among its members - has named Joseph McInerney, M.S., as its first permanent executive director.

McInerney, who has been involved in genetics education for almost 25 years, was trained as a genetic counselor and served as director of the Foundation for Genetic Education and Counseling in Baltimore before joining NCHPEG in September. Prior to that, he was director of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study in Colorado Springs for 14 years.

"I came to NCHPEG because it is important to reach a broad array of health professionals with sound, helpful information about genetics," said McInerney. "The coalition serves as a powerful catalyst to integrate genetics into the healthcare profession."

"We are fortunate indeed to have recruited an individual with such broad experience in genetics education for this critical position," said Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of NHGRI and co-chair of NCHPEG's steering committee. "Joe McInerney's dedication and insight will serve NCHPEG well as this organization takes on a very ambitious agenda."

NCHPEG was formed to promote health professional education and access to information about advances in human genetics. It is an interdisciplinary group of leaders from more than 100 health professional organizations, consumer and voluntary groups, government agencies, private industry, managed care organizations and genetics professional societies.

"Genomics, the patient-centered application of genetic discoveries, will have as large an impact on health care as did the discovery of microbes as a source of disease," said Dr. Michael J. Scotti, Jr., M.D., a co-chair of NCHPEG's steering committee and vice president of medical education at the American Medical Association. "The challenge for health professions is that we will not have a century, or even a decade, to adapt before the arrival of available therapy and preventive management."

According to NCHPEG steering committee co-chair Dr. Gladys White, Ph.D., R.N., director of the Center for Ethics and Human Rights, American Nurses Association, it is imperative for nursing professionals to become better informed about genetics.

"Nurses are the largest group of health professionals on the front lines in the delivery of health care," said Dr. White. "It is crucial that nurses understand the genetic underpinning of health and well being and communicate this information to patients.".

In December 1999, the coalition received a three-year grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The grant enabled NCHPEG to expand its work, and provided funding to hire a full-time executive director, an executive assistant and other office staff.

In September, NCHPEG received additional funding, a 20-month grant totaling $680,000 to develop an interactive CD-ROM on psychiatric genetics (the role of genetic factors in the causation of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit disorder) that will be distributed at no cost to all members of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC), a member organization of NCHPEG. The grant was provided by the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications branch of the Human Genome Program, U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Office of Science.

The coalition aims to integrate genetics into the information used by health professionals and students of the health professions; develop educational tools and information resources to facilitate the integration of genetics into health professional practice; and strengthen and expand the coalition's interdisciplinary community of organizations and individuals.

NCHPEG emerged in response to a growing need for information exchange and coordination of genetics education activities. As genetic knowledge and technologies such as genetic tests to detect disease and risk of disease have become more relevant to everyday health care, individuals with genetic diseases (and their family members) have increasing numbers of questions and turn to primary care physicians, nurses, physician assistants and other health care providers who may not be formally trained in genetics.

NCHPEG recognizes that other health professionals such as psychologists and social workers also might be called upon to help individuals and families cope with the psychological issues related to genetic testing and information. Government and health officials also could be faced with integrating genetics into relevant policies and programs.

As executive director of NCHPEG, McInerney will provide administrative leadership for the coalition, work closely with the NCHPEG executive committee, steering committee and working groups, and improve and develop new coalition programs. Additionally, he will oversee the day-to-day work of the coalition, hire and supervise a staff in the Baltimore-based NCHPEG office, and work with member organizations to help them design specific approaches particular to their professions and incorporate genetics into healthcare.

McInerney says he believes that "all health professionals will be affected by the insights that genetics will bring to our understanding of health and disease."

For more information about NCHPEG:
Phone: (410) 337-6728

Last updated: April 19, 2012