A Reflection on 2020's Challenges and Opportunities to Be a Force for Good
As we gather with family and friends -- possibly at a greater distance than is typical -- and give thanks, I want to take a moment to reflect on all that 2020 has given us. This year has certainly challenged us. It has been a year of disruption and uncertainty, which has required us to respond with adaptive resilience. It has been a year of transformation. We have seen the rise of virtual care to meet the needs of patients safely and securely. And we have seen the rise of genomics, including its role in understanding SARS-CoV-2 and aiding in the development of vaccines to help us manage through this public health emergency. This has been a year to champion the individual…who represents both the beauty and value of diversity as well as a celebration of what we all share in common or deserve to share in, equally. And many have answered the call to promote the right for each individual in our nation to reach their full potential. It is my sincere hope that the Black Lives Matter movement and the resulting efforts to dismantle systemic racism in our country and world will produce lasting change. It is my hope that we can learn to show compassion and empathy for all.
At Genome Medical, we remain steadfast in upholding our commitments to be a Force for Good, to drive change and promote diversity, equity and inclusion in our health care system. To that end, I would like to share an update on our progress toward our goals as we continue to work to foster meaningful change:
5 Initiatives for Change
- Educate Ourselves: We believe change starts with knowledge. We have come together as an organization to share resources, offer opportunities for discussion and bring new points of view to the fore for consideration related to race and how people of color are impacted in day-to-day life and, more specifically, in the health care system. Erica Ramos, our Vice President, Population Genomics, started a five-part blog series to bring light to the disparities people of color have faced in health care access and outcomes. The series starts with an overview, Making Black Lives Matter In Health Care, and continues with a look at both historical and current inequities in reproductive health care for people of color: Racism in Pregnancy and Childbearing: A Path to Equal Reproductive Rights. The next post in the series will bring attention to disparities in cancer care, including hereditary genetic testing and prevention for cancer, followed by pieces on rare disease and population health. Our goal is to increase awareness and start a dialogue regarding recommendations for clinicians and patients to help drive toward equity.
Additionally, we have created a book club for team members to become more informed about the challenges that people of color continue to face. We organize watch parties centered around educational TED Talks on the subject and engage in open dialogue in company-wide open forums about privilege and how to better find common ground.
Through these efforts and more, we will build language for discussion, maintain our culture of transparency, encourage a deep appreciation for diversity, and deliver on our commitment to changing the status quo to enable equitable access to care and confidence in the health care system for all people, regardless of race.
- Support Diversity in Research: We have continued our partnership with Genomes2People’s PeopleSeq Consortium, the NIH-funded research study tracking the impact of elective genome sequencing and providing subsidized opportunities for elective sequencing to African Americans. The study will close in June 2021 and has not yet reached its full program capacity. As highlighted by Erica Ramos’ blogs, there is a long history of people of color being mistreated by the health care community, or not being treated at all. This study and others like it are aimed at changing the future of health care for people of color. This study is open to anyone who is Black, English-speaking and lives anywhere in the U.S. outside the state of New York. If you or someone you know may be eligible, please reach out to Info@GenomeMedical.com and spread the word so we can support this important change in health care.
- Create Access for Underserved Communities: Since the summer, we have introduced a new offering specifically designed to support advocacy groups in delivering care to underserved communities. If you work for or support an advocacy group that is interested in delivering genomics care to a community in need, please reach out to us via Info@GenomeMedical.com to find out more about the program. We have also initiated discussions with several professional and academic organizations to establish mentorship programs designed to open up the field of genetic counseling and medical genetics to students in various stages of their academic career. Through these mentorship opportunities, we aim to facilitate a change in the face of genomics in years to come to be one that better represents the patient population at large. In spring 2021, we will also be launching an essay contest to engage high school students from under-represented groups to learn about genomics and genetics. The goal is to help invigorate interest in this rapidly growing and evolving area of health care and help build a stronger, more diverse pipeline of future clinical and business leaders.
- Expand Our Diversity Hiring Commitments: In alignment with our pledge and commitment to working toward gender parity at Genome Medical, we have also committed to a parity pledge in support of creating a diverse and welcoming workplace for people of color. On one of the biggest stages in the world, the impact of representation is being felt with the election of Kamala Harris as the first female and first person of color to serve as Vice President of the United States. We are committed to creating possibilities and opportunities that afford this kind of representation more broadly; we need to work together to create a world where all careers are within reach.
- Be a Force for Good: Recently, we joined forces with other forward-looking companies in our industry as part of the newly formed Statewide Biocom California DE&I Task Force to collaborate on ways to drive greater diversity, equity and inclusion in our companies, in our health care system and in our communities. This team is in the early stages of its work, and more details will be forthcoming. In addition to continuing to offer our financial assistance program and payment plans to increase the accessibility to our genomic services, we also recently announced that we are now in-network with a broad array of health plans representing 90 million covered lives in the U.S. This means that approximately 25% of Americans have our services available to them as part of their in-network benefits. We accept all forms of commercial insurance and continue to offer financial assistance plans, including offering our services at no cost for those who qualify. Individuals interested in learning more can inquire at Info@GenomeMedical.com.
The holiday season is upon us, and we still have so much uncertainty and challenge ahead. It is a fitting time to take stock and express gratitude, where we can. For me, I am especially grateful to the members of the Genome Medical team for all they have done and continue to do to provide incredible genomics care to people at the times in their lives when they need it most. Our team inspires me every day. It is a gift to be able to work for a mission-driven organization at the forefront of genetics and genomics. We are building Genome Medical to be a sustainable force in driving the future of health care delivery with improved quality and cost of care. I am especially proud of our team’s continued efforts to bring this care to a more diverse and broad population.
I believe hope and fortitude will carry us through this challenging time, and we will emerge with greater resolve, resiliency and loyalty to each other. It is up to us to determine what the future will hold and what the face of health care delivery will look like. I am confident telehealth and genomics will be a strong part of that future, and the Genome Medical team will leave a mark in helping to make that a reality.
Co-founder and CEO