American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 2018 in San Diego, CA

Before becoming a member of the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) and attending the annual meeting, I was not all that familiar with San Diego. Sure, we had visited a time or two as kids, but geez, that was a long time ago. Now we go so often, San Diego seems like a second office to us.

Mom says this is us in San Diego circa 1975 or 1976. I don’t remember so I’ll take her word for it.

I jest, but not really. According to the ASHG archives of past meetings, San Diego first became a venue for the meeting back in 1977. The meeting did not return to this west coast spot until ten years later in 1987.

My dear readers, I may be old, but I am not that old.

I didn’t catch the San Diego ASHG sunshine until October 2001. Incidentally, the 2001 meeting was a bit somber and slightly lower in attendance than the year’s past meeting given the previous month’s national emergency. Both domestic and international travelers were still wary, and many cancelled reservations that were made for the meeting months in advance. For me, that time was filled with mixed emotions as I had just gotten married, and my husband and I flew directly to the meeting from our honeymoon.

I didn’t take any pictures during this meeting because we used all our film for our honeymoon. That’s right–FILM. Here’s an ASHG program guide from 2001 I saved from the trash a few weeks ago during the CWRU PQHS office clean-out (don’t tell Will). I know, I know—this borders on hoarding…
What’s that about a hoarding problem? My ASHG badge from 2007.

Six years later, the meeting ended up back on these west coast shores. The 2007 ASHG in San Diego promised to be up beat and fun as I was relatively new faculty and I had a student. To boot, our larger group of faculty and students all planned to go. Planned, that is, until the Santa Ana winds whipped up the biggest wildfires ever experienced by the region just a few days before the start of the meeting. The literal ring of fire and the poor air quality associated with it forced many colleagues and their trainees to cancel. I, as did others, soldiered on and attended the ASHG meeting along with the dinner organized for our past and future colleagues. Dr. Marylyn Ritchie organized this dinner but ended up cancelling her trip to ASHG because of the fires. That would explain why so many of us went off menu that night…

Of course, modern-day ASHG is not complete without a party or two. This ASHG was the first Illumina hometown party, and they pulled out all the stops. I barely missed the hip hop dancers, but was there in time to see some Seattle colleagues try their best.

San Diego Wild Animal Park. Steve is all set to feed Ivan the Giraffe. Or, Ivan is ready for Steve to feed him. Either way, note the handler’s mask–the air quality was pretty poor that week (2007).

In between scientific sessions, I also managed to squeeze in a trip with my husband to the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Suffice to say, the lines were really short that week.

ASHG in San Diego seems to have hit its stride with a meeting in 2014. With almost 8,500 registrants, the 2014 meeting was one of highest attended meetings to that point. For us as faculty, the PhD program was mature and we had many past and present students attend and present their science at the meeting.

(You know I have my 2014 badge…)

So that brings us to 2018.

After all these years, 2018 will stand out for me for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I was elected a member of the ASHG board of directors. Although my term officially started January 2019, the new roster was already being announced at the 2018 meeting. I am very honored to have had my colleagues vote for me, and I intend to make the most of my tenure.

Second, I was cordially invited to participate as a panelist with Dr. Janina Jeff at the ASHG Diversity Breakfast. I am proud that our society has taken the issue of diversity in the biomedical research workforce seriously and has organized several, new activities to boost diversity in ASHG membership and leadership. 2019 will be even more exciting with the new Human Genetics Scholars Initiative.

Finally, ASHG 2018 was one of the first meetings where I was not responsible for presenting a poster or giving an oral presentation. Sure, I was co-investigator for our work in the Million Veteran Program, but Dr. Rob Igo took the lead in presenting our poster. Normally I would be worried about my reduced visibility at the meeting with the lack of posters, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

Dr. Rob Igo, Jr., presenting our fabulous Million Veteran Program poster at ASHG 2018. He won a ribbon, too.

ASHG was busy as usual, filled with scientific presentations and formal and informal meetings.

Of course, no ASHG is complete without a party or two.

As I have posted before and will surely post again, the best part of ASHG is catching up with colleagues you haven’t seen in a while.

ASHG can be a long and exhausting meeting, packed with four or five days of new data and ideas. It can be overwhelming at times, but before you know it, it’s all over and planning for 2019 is well underway.

An ASHG photo must, with Yuki Bradford and Drs. Sarah Pendergrass and Jessica Cooke Bailey. Notice the clue Sarah has left you about next year’s meeting (2018).

Speaking of 2019, Sarah Pendergrass has a point—so long San Diego, until 2020. For 2019, we’re headed to Houston! See you in H-Town, the big HTX!

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Dana Crawford

Professor of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences and Associate Director of the Cleveland Institute for Computational Biology, with interest in pharmacogenomics, electronic health records, and diverse populations. Also, an avid foodie!

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