Birmingham Women’s Hospital research midwife Liz Quinlan-Jones has been spreading the word about Health Education England’s (HEE) Genomics Education Programme (GEP) to the movers and shakers of the genetics world.
The £3 million education initiative is running alongside NHS England’s ground-breaking 100,000 Genomes Project and aims to give NHS staff the knowledge and skills to integrate genomics into general healthcare.
Liz is coming to the end of a Master’s in Genomic Medicine at the University of Birmingham, funded by the programme, and flew to Canada in October to talk about it during the 2016 American Society of Human Genetics Conference in Vancouver.
She was asked to speak at the week-long event by the chairman of the European Society of Human Genetics after her blog was spotted on HEE’s website.
“This is the largest human genetics conference in the world and there were 18 invited sessions so I am absolutely delighted to have had the opportunity to go,” Liz said.
“It was a session about non-traditional career paths and how people have found their way into different areas of genetics, looking at ways to improve genomics education and training for medical trainees and healthcare professionals and how we can learn from each other to facilitate that.
“I spoke about my personal journey, from qualification as a registered midwife up to the point where I am today, and how genomics has become a huge component of my role.”
Liz is one of a handful of midwives nationwide specialising in fetal medicine and genetics, and is currently working on the £4 million Pre-natal Assessment of Genomes and Exomes (PAGE) study, which aims to improve our understanding of genetic variants causing congenital fetal anomalies.
She said that the 100,000 Genomes Project and the GEP were well received at the conference, which also featured NHS England Chief Scientific Officer, Professor Sue Hill, among the speakers.
“The feeling was that the UK is very forward-thinking in terms of having an excellent genomics education programme, linked with the 100,000 Genomes Project,” she went on.
“People felt that it was very well organised and very well thought out, in terms of having this education programme running alongside the project.
“I’m not involved in the 100,000 Genomes Project myself but the GEP has been extremely beneficial for me in terms of the research that I’m involved in, so it has got a much wider reach than the project alone.
“What I took from the conference was that this is something that will involve everybody in healthcare and people were very keen to showcase that those from all healthcare backgrounds have the opportunity to develop their genomic understanding and support patients.
“It was really reassuring, and also very exciting, that there is a growing awareness that everybody needs to be involved.”