Past Symposia and Workshops

Being Precise in Precision Medicine–Measuring Exposures in Diverse Populations

The 2017 symposium was held at the Tinkham Veale at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH on September 28, 2017.  The symposium featured a combined lecture series and hands-on workshop. The overall theme focused on current topics related to collecting lifestyle/behavioral and exposure data with an emphasis on diverse populations.  This all-day conference featured six invited speakers covering a range of topics related to this year’s theme including tools to collect and harmonize phenotypes and exposures (Dr. Erin Ramos, NIH/NHGRI), statistical methods for gene-environmental interaction studies (Dr. Misa Graff, UNC), measuring little cigar use in Cleveland and beyond (Dr. Erika Traple, CWRU), measuring physical activity in the elderly (Dr. Jennifer Schrack, Johns Hopkins University), developing culturally sensitive materials for research and interventions that target lifestyle (Dr. Monica Webb Hooper, CWRU), and measuring air pollution, climate, and socioeconomic status for studies of human health (Dr. Stefanie Sarnat, Emory University).  This year’s symposium also featured a lunchtime workshop on extracting exposure and lifestyle information from electronic health records lead by Dr. Sarah Pendergrass (Geisinger Health System).

Precision Medicine for All: Ensuring Diversity in Participants and in Practice

In 2016, we hosted our second annual symposium, discussing the challenges and scientific advantages of including diverse populations in the study and implementation of precision medicine.  Precision or personalized medicine is the incorporation of ‘omic data into clinical practice to better predict, prevent, and treat disease at the individual level.  The White House-led Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) is ramping up, and the first projects are being awarded to ascertain and follow 1 million Americans in a study of  genetics, environment, and lifestyle to better understand their influence on human health.  Despite the excitement surrounding these research developments, patient enrollment is a tricky business.  There are many factors – personal, statistical, ethical, social, demographic, and otherwise – that may make it difficult to ensure that all populations are represented in research studies, and that all populations stand to benefit from research findings.  Our seven local and national speakers presented the latest research on precision medicine research in diverse populations.  We closed the symposium with special guests Veronica Robinson and Shirley Lacks, great-granddaughter and daughter-in-law of Henrietta Lacks, a cervical cancer patient whose biospecimens were used without her consent to create immortal cell lines, now known as HeLa cells. The Lacks family spoke about their family’s experience both as research participants and their role in informing and directing research and policy. 

Present-Day Problems and Potentials for Precision Medicine

In 2015, we hosted our inaugural symposium on precision medicine.  The recent availability of electronic health records and the affordability of ‘omic data generation make precision medicine possible.  However, before precision medicine can be fully and effectively implemented for the benefit of all patients, a host of topics must be explored through the Precision Medicine Initiative and other research efforts.  To discuss these emerging issues, we brought together several leading experts in precision medicine to discuss specific topics ranging from use of electronic health records in research settings, application of research findings in a clinical setting, ethics and health disparities, and statistical and computational challenges and opportunities.  Our symposium attracted physicians, researchers, and trainees, and represented a broad and diverse range of expertise from in and around northeastern Ohio. 

Putting the Pieces Together: Precision Medicine Discovery from Electronic Health Records

In coordination with our 2015 symposium on precision medicine, we also hosted a workshop with hands-on exercises in electronic phenotyping.  We introduced the differences between a clinical record and a validated scientific phenotype.  We discussed the challenges inherent to some phenotypes that are not well-characterized with billing codes, and posed strategies for leveraging laboratory and clinical notes for refining a phenotype definition.