President of ASHG on Eugenics Apology, Diversity Initiative

Last month the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) took a quite remarkable step, putting out a formal statement of apology for its past history of involvement with eugenics. Some say it’s long overdue while some of us didn’t know about this history.

Along with the statement, the society issued a full report which is part of the Facing Our History - Building an Equitable Future Initiative. Here to discuss the statement and the initiative is the President of ASHG, Dr. Brendan Lee. Dr. Lee is also a Professor and Chairman of the Department of Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Lee says the society, which is the largest of its kind in the world, has been working on diversity and equity as part of its recent strategic planning initiative. But he also acknowledges that the issue became more urgent after the events around the death of George Floyd which rocked America.

How well is this history known by ASHG members? Some members have commented that politics should be kept out of science—what are Dr. Lee’s thoughts about this response? The Initiative is not only about an honest reckoning with the past, but bold changes for the future. What will that look like?