NHGRI logo
Senior Advisor to the NHGRI Director on Genomics and Health Disparities

Office of the Director

Associate Investigator

Social and Behavioral Research Branch


B.A. Michigan State University, 1978

J.D. The Ohio State University College of Law, 1982


Vence Bonham received his Bachelor of Arts from James Madison College at Michigan State University and his Juris Doctor degree from the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.  Mr. Bonham was a fellow in the American Association of Medical Colleges Health Services Research Fellowship Program. Mr. Bonham was a tenured faculty member at Michigan State University with appointments in the Colleges of Medicine and Law. He is currently an associate investigator in the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) within the Division of Intramural Research's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. He leads the Health Disparities Unit, which investigates the equitable integration of new genomic knowledge and precision medicine into clinical settings. 

His research focuses primarily on the social implications of new genomic knowledge, particularly in communities of color. He studies how genomics influences the use of the constructs of race and ethnicity in biomedical research and clinical care, and the role of genomics in exacerbating or ameliorating health inequities. The Bonham group also studies sickle cell disease, a condition that will be impacted by emerging curative genomic technologies, but has faced significant health disparities both in the United States and globally.

Mr. Bonham also serves as the senior advisor to the NHGRI Director on Genomics and Health Disparities. This role complements his research, as it allows contemporary genomic science and policy issues to inform his research program. 

Scientific Summary

Within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch, Mr. Bonham directs the Health Disparities Unit.  The mission of the HDU is to investigate approaches to translating new genomic knowledge and precision medicine into clinical settings without exacerbating health inequities.

The Bonham group is one of a small number of research teams working to bring empirical evidence to questions regarding the role of genomics in reducing or exacerbating health disparities. His research program utilizes a variety of methods and data types including qualitative interviews, quantitative survey methods, and biological data including genomic, microbiome, and clinical data.  

Mr. Bonham and colleagues have developed the first scale to assess health professionals' use of race and genetics in clinical practice, called the Bonham and Sellers Race Attributes in Clinical Evaluation (RACE) scale. Additionally, he created an index designed to measure health professionals' knowledge of human genetic variation and their beliefs and attitudes about its relationship to race. This body of work informs a conceptual model of the influence of race in the clinical encounter, which views the clinician-patient relationship as bi-directional. The model incorporates healthcare providers' knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about human genetic variation.

Currently, the Bonham group is exploring how participation in genomics research impacts underrepresented and under-resourced populations by investigating how genomic research results are returned to participants from these populations. With this information, the Bonham group is developing policy guidelines to return genomic findings to under-resourced participants. These guidelines will aid investigators in developing programs and policies for working with under-resourced groups and help prevent health inequities due to genomics research.

The Bonham group also studies sickle cell trait and sickle cell disease, a condition with applications for emerging genomic technologies and a significant health disparity impact both in the United States and globally. In 2014, Mr. Bonham established the Insights into the Microbiome and Environmental Contributions to Sickle Cell Disease and Leg Ulcers Study (INSIGHTS), conducted at the NIH Clinical Center and Montefiore Medical Center. The central goal of this study is to examine the microbial, genomic, psychosocial, and environmental contributors to leg ulcers in sickle cell disease, and more broadly to evaluate variation in phenotype in the disease. To achieve its goals, the study characterizes the skin microbiome of sickle cell disease patients, collects genomic and clinical data, and uses social science methods to assess the social environment and psychosocial status (e.g., stress, discrimination, stigma and depression) of individuals with and without leg ulcers. INSIGHTS is highly interdisciplinary and incorporates national and international expertise from health services research, microbiology, genomics, hematology, psychology and sociology.

Sickle cell disease will be one of the first conditions to be impacted by recent advances in gene editing. As a result, the Bonham group investigates the perspectives of the sickle cell disease community on somatic genome editing. This work will inform the development and clinical applications of emerging curative genetic therapies for sickle cell disease.


Bonham V.L. Race and ethnicity disparities in pain treatment. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, 29: 52-68. 2001. [PubMed]

Nerenz D., Bonham V., et al. Eliminating racial/ethnic disparities in health care: Can health plans generate reports? Health Affairs,21(3):259-263. 2002. [PubMed]

Bonham V., Sellers S., Neighbors H.W. John Henryism, and self reported physical health among high SES African-American men. American Journal of Public Health, (5):737-8. 2004. [PubMed]

Bonham V., Warshauer Baker E., Collins F.C. Race and ethnicity in the genomic era: a complexity of the constructs. Am Psychol, 60:9-15. 2005. [PubMed]

Race, Ethnicity, and Genetics Working Group. The Use of Racial, Ethnic, and Ancestral Categories in Human Genetics Research. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 77(4):519-32. 2005. [Full Text

Todd K.H., Green C., Bonham V.L. Jr., Haywood C. Jr., Ivy E. Sickle cell disease related pain: crisis and conflict. Journal of Pain, 7(7):453-458. 2006. [PubMed]

Phillips EM, Odunlami AO, Bonham VL, Mixed Race: Understanding Difference in the Genome Era. Social Forces, 86(2):795-820. 2007. [PubMed]

Bonham VL, Ramos EM, Unraveling the relative contributions to health differences. CMAJ, 179(7):629-630. 2008. [PubMed]

Bonham VL, Knerr S, Social and Ethical Implications of Genomics, Race, Ethnicity, and Health Inequities. Seminars in Oncology Nursing, 24:254-261. 2008. [PubMed]

Bonham VL, Seller SL, Gallagher TH, Price EG, Frank D, Odunlami AO, Cooper LA, Physicians' attitudes towards race, genetics and clinical medicine. Genetics in Medicine, 11(4):279-86. 2009. [PubMed]

Bonham VL, Citrin T, Modell SM, Franklin TH, Warshauer-Baker E, Fleck LM, Community Based Dialogue: Engaging Communities of Color in the United States' Genetics Policy Conversation. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 34(3):325-59. 2009. [PubMed]

Bonham VL, Knerr S, Feero WG, Stevens N, Jenkins JF, McBride CM. Patient physical characteristics and primary care physician decision making in preconception genetic screening. Public Health Genomics, 13(6):336-44. 2010. [PubMed]

Frank D, Gallagher TH, Sellers SL, Cooper LA, Price EG, Odunlami AO, Bonham VL. Primary care physicians' attitudes regarding race-based therapies. J Gen Intern Med, 25(5):384-9. 2010. [PubMed]

Knerr S, Ramos E, Nowinski J, Dixon K, Bonham VL. Human difference in the genomic era: Facilitating a socially responsible dialogue. BMC Med Genomics, 3:20. 2010. [PubMed]

Bonham VL, Dover GJ, Brody LC. Screening student athletes for sickle cell trait--a social and clinical experiment. N Engl J Med, 363(11):997-9. 2010. [PubMed]

Knerr S, Wayman D, Bonham VL. Inclusion of racial and ethnic minorities in genetic research: advance the spirit by changing the rules? J Law Med Ethics, 39:502-512. 2011. [PubMed]
Snipes SA, Sellers SL, Tafawa AO, Cooper LA, Fields JC, Bonham VL. Is race medically relevant? A qualitative study of physicians' attitudes about the role of race in treatment decision-making. BMC Health Serv Res, 11:183. 2011. [PubMed]

Goldsmith JC, Bonham VL, Joiner CH, Kato GJ, Noonan AS, Steinberg MH. Framing the research agenda for sickle cell trait: building on the current understanding of clinical events and their potential implications.  Am J Hematol, 87(3):340-346. 2012. [PubMed]
Calzone KA, Jenkins J, Culp S, Bonham VL Jr, Badzek L. National nursing workforce survey of nursing attitudes, knowledge and practice in genomics. Per Med, 1:10. 2013. [PubMed]
Hurle B, Citrin T, Jenkins JF, Kaphingst KA, Lamb N, Roseman JE, Bonham VL. What does it mean to be genomically literate: National Human Genome Research Institute meeting report. Genet Med, 15:658-663. 2013. [PubMed]

Cunningham BA, Bonham VL, Sellers SL, Yeh HC, Cooper LA.  Physicians' anxiety due to uncertainty and use of race in medical decision making.  Medical Care, 52:783-33. 2014. [PubMed]

Bonham VL, Sellers SL, Woolford S.  Physicians' knowledge, use, and beliefs about race and genetic variation: New measures and new insight.   BMC Health Serv Res, 14:456. 2014. [PubMed]

Bonham VL, Green ED, Pérez-Stable EJ. Examining How Race, Ethnicity, andAncestry Data Are Used in Biomedical Research. JAMA. 320(15):1533-1534, 2018. [PubMed]

Naik RP, Smith-Whitley K, Hassell KL, Umeh NI, de Montalembert M, Sahota P,  Haywood C Jr, Jenkins J, Lloyd-Puryear MA, Joiner CH, Bonham VL, Kato GJ. Clinical Outcomes Associated with Sickle Cell Trait: A Systematic Review. Ann Intern Med. 169(9):619-627. 2018. [PubMed]

Persaud A, Desine SA, Blizinsky K, Bonham VL. A CRISPR Focus on Attitudes and Beliefs Towards Somatic Genome Editing from Stakeholders Within the Sickle Cell Disease Community. Genetics in Medicine. doi: 10.1038/s41436-018-0409-6. Epub head of print. 2018. [PubMed]

Selected Book Chapters

Bonham VL, Haywood C, Gamble VN. Sickle cell disease: the past, present and future social and ethical dilemmas. In: The Renaissance of Sickle Cell Disease in the Human Genome Era. United Kingdom: Imperial College Press, p. 311-321. 2007.

Health Disparities Unit Staff

Khadijah E. Abdallah
Khadijah E. Abdallah
  • Research Coordinator
  • Health Disparities Unit
Ashley J. Buscetta
Ashley J. Buscetta
  • Research Nurse Practitioner
  • Health Disparities Unit
Julia Byeon
Julia Byeon, B.A.
  • Predoctoral Fellow
  • Health Disparities Unit
Generic Profile Photo
Kayla E. Cooper, B.A.
  • Predoctoral Fellow
  • Health Disparities Unit
Stacy Desine
Stacy Desine, B.A.
  • Predoctoral Fellow
  • Health Disparities Unit
Michael J. Hahn
Michael J. Hahn
  • Scientific Program Analyst
  • Office of the Director
Brittany M. Hollister, Ph.D.
Brittany M. Hollister, Ph.D.
  • Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Immersive Virtual Environment Test Unit

Last updated: February 6, 2015