The Clinical Genetics Society (CGS) was set up in 1970 to bring together doctors and other professionals involved in the care of individuals and families with genetic disorders, with the following aims:
- to advance and promote the science and practice of Clinical Genetics
- to bring together workers who have a common interest in Clinical Genetics
- to understand, prevent, cure and alleviate conditions with a genetic aetiology
- to publish and disseminate reports, statements, and research findings
Since its creation, the CGS membership has increased steadily, and the aims have broadened, and now include:
- promoting and facilitating education for the genetics community, other health care professionals, those outwith the profession, and the wider public
- encouraging high standards of training for professionals within Clinical Genetics
- facilitating research into basic human genetics and genetic disorders
- maintaining excellent links with patient groups
- continuing constructive dialogue with government and other politicians on genetics-related issues
Clinical Genetics Society- Stands against discrimination and promotes equality in all areas of our field, and delivery of genetic services to the community.
Equality of delivery of care
We recognise that inequality within the healthcare system is sadly prevalent in our society; with some of the most marginalised, suffering the consequences of disparities in healthcare delivery. Never has this been more evident than in the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
We are an organisational body that supports the equitable delivery of genetic services across the country. We welcome the introduction of the national test directory which will help to improve access to the most advanced genetic testing for all patients, regardless of their postcode, socioeconomic background, race or religion.
That notwithstanding, we are acutely aware that more needs to be done. Many genetic tests developed over the years have reached extremely high levels of sensitivity when detecting pathogenic variants in Northern European and Ashkenazi Jewish populations. This is not the case in for patients in our Asian and particularly our African and Caribbean and communities (1). We strongly support much needed research in those populations where knowledge- and so our ability to provide an equitable service, is lacking.
Addressing the history of Genetics
We acknowledge that in the past, genetics has been embroiled in ideology that conflicts with our current values as a profession. The age of Eugenics has thankfully passed. However, in modern times, we recognise that there has been a resurgence of genetic concepts falling into the hands of those who would misuse and distort ideas to feed into racist ideology.
We at the CGS fervently oppose the use of genetics to perpetuate division and discrimination. We stand with the statements made by the ASHG (2) and the ESHG (3) in 2018 to denounce these damaging misconceptions.
Supporting our Medical staff
Around 13% of the UK population is made up of people from minority ethnic groups. They form around 44% of the medical workforce within the NHS. Figures published in June 2020 revealed, of all known COVID-19 deaths among healthcare workers, 94% of doctors and dentists, and 71% of nurses and midwives were from black and minority ethnic backgrounds (5). Our hearts go out to the families of all our colleagues, who have lost their lives whilst caring for others. These stark figures impress on us a sense of urgency to do all we can to improve inequalities, not only in our community but also in our profession: amongst consultants, specialist trainees and junior doctors.
We know that how Genetics is taught can have a positive impact on trainees, challenging pre-existing frameworks of racial constructs (4). We welcome ideas and suggestions from our members to work towards our goal of creating an environment that fosters an atmosphere of diversity and inclusivity.
The immense challenge that lies ahead is great, but we as a society are deeply committed to taking action however we can, to improve equality in Genetics and health care delivery. Passive indifference to these injustices is no longer an option.
1. Gregg, Anthony R. "Message from ACMG President: overcoming disparities." Genetics in Medicine (2020): 1-1.
2. ASHG Board of Directors Executive Committee. "ASHG denounces attempts to link genetics and racial supremacy." Am. J. Hum. Genet 103 (2018): 636.
3. ESHG joins ASHG in Denouncing Attempts to Link Genetics and the Concept of Racial Supremacy, 10/22/2018 https://www.eshg.org/index.php?id=910&tx_news_pi1%5Bnews%5D=14&tx_news_pi1%5Bcontroller%5D=News&tx_news_pi1%5Baction%5D=detail&cHash=b1de68f27a9b8810a28c91279e645e7c
4. Dasgupta, Shoumita. "An Anti-Racism Toolkit for the Genetics Educator." Genetics in Medicine (2020): 1-2.
5. Trivedy, Chet, Ian Mills, and Onkar Dhanoya. "The impact of the risk of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) members of the UK dental profession." British dental journal 228.12 (2020): 919-922.