At Genome Medical, we honor Juneteenth as part of our commitment to equity, equality and justice. June 19, 2022, marks the 157th anniversary of the last African-American enslaved people being freed in Texas. Last year, President Biden signed into law Juneteenth National Independence Day, creating a federal holiday. We will therefore be closed on Monday in commemoration of Juneteenth.
Core to our mission at Genome Medical is that we utilize genomics to protect and advance human health across all ethnic, racial and geographic groups. Our genomes show us that our DNA is very much the same, even if we come from different ethnicities or countries. Our shared humanity unites us.
Force For Good
Following the tragic death of George Floyd in 2020, we asked ourselves, “How can we make meaningful change to the inequities and racism that persist within our institutions, workplaces and the health care system?”
I am proud of our response. We created our “Force for Good” effort, a series of initiatives and commitments to promote meaningful change. Two years later, we remain committed to being a Force for Good, and I am grateful for our steadfast work to continue promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the health care system and specifically in the field of genomics.
As we approach Juneteenth, I’d like to share an update on our progress toward our Force for Good goals:
We look for opportunities to listen, learn, discuss and encourage new points of view in relation to race and how people of color are impacted personally, professionally and in the health care system. We do this through book clubs, company-wide forums and shared resources, and by regularly offering unconscious bias training to team members. We have an established Force for Good communication platform for colleagues to connect on diversity-related topics and to offer peer-to-peer support. We have also published a five-part blog series on Making Black Lives Matter In Health Care and another blog on Genetic Testing for Transgender People. Through these efforts, we seek to increase our understanding, provide support to each other and work to be part of the solution.
Support Diversity in Research.
We actively support research initiatives to foster diversity in genomic health data. In our partnership with Genomes2People’s PeopleSeq Consortium, we have completed recruitment for the NIH-funded research study that tracks the impact of elective genome sequencing and provides subsidized opportunities for elective sequencing to African Americans. The research program successfully recruited individuals who identify as Black or African American for elective sequencing.
Create Access for Underserved Communities.
We work to break down disparities in access to genomic health care by enabling easy, virtual access to our clinical care team for patients everywhere. Here are a number of specific initiatives:
- Support advocacy groups in delivering care to underserved communities.
- Increase reimbursement coverage for our services so we are more accessible to all patients.
- Provide ready access to our Patient Financial Assistance Program. Genome Medical is committed to providing financial assistance to qualified low-income, uninsured and underinsured patients when the ability to pay for services is a barrier to accessing medical care.
- We have joined the Health Evolution Health Equity Pledge to collect and review data about the race, ethnicity, language and sex of our patient population and act to reduce disparities based on that information.
Increase Workforce Diversity.
In alignment with our commitment to gender and racial parity at Genome Medical, we adopted the Parity Pledge. Not only are we dedicated to reaching a diverse candidate pool, but also we strive to make the genetics workforce more diverse overall. Here are some additional efforts:
- We have created mentorship programs designed to open up the field of genetic counseling and medical genetics to students in various stages of their academic career, so the genomic industry better represents the diversity of our patient population.
- In order to engage students from under-represented groups to learn about genomics, we hold an annual Force for Good high school essay contest. The goal is to invigorate interest in this rapidly growing area of health care to help build a stronger, more diverse pipeline of future clinical and business leaders. We recently announced our 2022 winners.
- We hold quarterly pre-genetic counseling webinars that feature genetic counselors discussing the profession and clinical and ethics case studies. Our next webinar is Tuesday, Aug. 23, at 12 pm PT / 3 pm ET.
Be a Force for Good.
I am incredibly proud and inspired by our team for continuing to find ways to be a Force for Good and for bringing needed care to a diverse and broad population. Team members throughout our organization are practicing Force for Good within their roles and in the community by joining community-based DEIJ task forces, publishing in medical journals, supporting student research on DEIJ topics and collaborating on efforts to improve DEIJ in genetic and technology communities.
However you decide to commemorate Juneteenth, I hope we all take some time to reflect on the significance of this federal holiday and the work that still needs to be done to create a more equitable and anti-racist society.
Co-founder and CEO