Health Forum of West Michigan to discuss genetic research

GVL / Emily Frye 
GVSU Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences on Thursday September 14, 2017.

GVL / Emily Frye GVSU Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences on Thursday September 14, 2017.

Drew Schertzer

Technology is accelerating at a pace that creates new opportunities in the field of health. This comes with its own set of ethical questions and financial challenges. The Health Forum of West Michigan will discuss some of these questions, focusing particularly on human genetics.

The forum will take place Friday, Nov. 3, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in the DeVos Center’s Loosemore Auditorium. The three panelists will be Janice Bach, state genetics coordinator and manager for the genomics and genetic disorders section of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; Megan Bowman, bioinformatics and biostatistics core for the Van Andel Research Institute; and Caleb Bupp, medical geneticist for Spectrum Health.

“I think that human genetics is an important area, and it’s new,” said Jean Nagelkerk, vice provost for health at GVSU. “A lot of research and discussion has been done, but there hasn’t been a lot of testing opportunities.” 

Nagelkerk said research in the field of human genetics can have high potential. An example Nagelkerk used was personalized medicine. Right now, a common way to treat cancer is chemotherapy, which has a lot of downsides, like hair loss or nausea. She said if a tumor could be taken from the patient and the medicine could be tested on it, there could be better results. The patient theoretically could avoid some of the side effects. 

Nagelkerk believes that human genetics is a very important field that will be increasingly relevant in medicinal practices. Further, there are positives to studying human genetics but also negatives. Nagelkerk posed that whenever you study anything, there are ethical dilemmas. Topics such as the use of stem cells, for example, have been controversial. 

“People always ask if they can do something and not if they should,” said Carl Wilson, GVSU student and psychology major. “It’s a slippery slope with many key issues in science right now.” 

As for the presentations, Bach will be discussing the big picture of policy development and will be looking into specific areas like genetic disorders. Bowman will talk about research she and her team are doing with genome sequencing; they look at medicine and ask why and how to use data to identify issues. Bupp will discuss challenges and opportunities for genetic testing being developed.

The Midwest Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research Center (MIPERC) is hosting the event with the Office of the Vice Provost for Health. The event will begin with a light breakfast at 7:30 a.m. the day of the event. Afterwards, participants can expect the forum to take place from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. 

A forum is held the first Friday of every month during the academic year. Topics vary and MIPERC accepts new ideas. For example, the forum will cover “One Health,” a medicinal initiative, Friday, Dec. 1. This will be a similar process with Nagelkerk leading the welcoming remarks. The panelists will differ, and a new topic will be discussed. 

To find out more information about MIPERC events, visit