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2018-19 Department of Human Genetics Faculty Photo
2018-19 Department of Human Genetics Faculty Photo

Message From The Chair

“Population Genetics and Genomics”
David Burke, Ph.D. Professor and Interim Chair of Human Genetics (2016-2019)

Friends and Colleagues,

Uniquely at the University of Michigan, the Department of Human Genetics views human health at levels that go beyond the individual patient. The inheritance of information across generations is a core component of our daily thinking. Although our colleagues in other fields, both clinical and basic science research, recognize that knowledge of family health history is valuable, only in Human Genetics do we explore the patterns that transcend the individual, in distance and in time.

All information has value. So, what information in the population can be used to help provide health care in the individual? What is beyond the “one-off” collection of genetic variation in a single genome that can inform human development and homeostasis?

The 2018 DHG newsletter focuses on “Population Genetics and Genomics”. Our faculty have studied populations since before the department was officially founded in 1956. James V. Neel and his original cohort, were “physicians to the gene pool” and not simply “physicians to the person”. Inherent in this self-description is a commitment to understanding the dynamics of genes, alleles, variations, and mutations. Population-level genetics has been carried forward for over six decades by our colleagues and mentors: Jim Neel, Donald Rucknagel, Jack Schull, Margery Shaw, Henry Gershowitz, Peter Smouse, Jane Schultz, Jean MacCluer, Jeff Long, Noah Rosenberg, and Charlie Sing. The continuing work of our current faculty are highlighted briefly here.

I am reminded of a comment I heard during the planning stages of the Human Genome Project. “There has never been a human genome. There has always been a human genome population.” A great reminder that, 15 years after the first human genome sequence, population genetics remains fundamental to our work in the Department.

Take a moment to read the 2018 Annual Newsletter from the Department of Human Genetics and help celebrate the achievements of our scientific community. And, please let me know what you think!

Dave Burke
Interim Chair