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Sanford Health, Harvard bring genetics education to rural classrooms

Events include workshops, training and advocacy in S.D. and Massachusetts

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Programs at Sanford Health and Harvard Medical School are collaborating to bring information and education about personal genetics and research to classrooms and communities in Massachusetts and South Dakota.

The Sanford Program for the Midwest Initiative in Science Exploration (PROMISE) at Sanford Research and the Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org) based at Harvard Medical School are creating and implementing workshops and community events in both states to bring awareness and generate community understanding about developments in genetics and how they affect our health.

Bringing biomedical science education programming to the northern plains and into rural America is the focus of Sanford PROMISE.

ARC, the Building Awareness, Respect and Confidence through Genetics project, is part of pgEd’s goal of engaging high school students and the general public in discussions on genetics. It’s supported by a five-year Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Institutes of Health.  In this collaboration, Sanford PROMISE will connect educators and communities in South Dakota with the content developed by pgEd.

In April, Harrisburg High School teachers Lisa Cardillo and Colby Peterson used their experience at a 2016 pgEd workshop and partnership with Sanford PROMISE to coach Harrisburg students as they coordinated and hosted the “Personal Genetics Community Experience.”  This event allowed educators, family and community members and genetic counselors to discuss the ethics around personal genetics.

“ARC hopes to empower teachers across all disciplines to stimulate dialogue about personal genetics,” said David Pearce, Ph.D., executive vice president of Sanford Research. “It has become increasingly important that we all better understand the benefits and implications the human genome has and will have in their everyday lives.”

Most recently, Lindsay Kortan of Yankton High School and Jen Prasek of Prakota, LLC, attended the pgEd Genetics and Social Justice Summer Institute in Brockton, Mass., to examine how geography affects social justice and genetics. The Sanford PROMISE and pgEd plan to host a workshop in Soiux Falls next summer.

“ARC is a project that sees opportunities for talking about genetics in many settings, and it relies on teachers’ expertise and collaboration to bring these conversations into classrooms, schools and communities,” said Marnie Gelbart, director of programs at pgEd.

About Sanford Health
Sanford Health is an integrated health system headquartered in the Dakotas. It is one of the largest health systems in the nation with 45 hospitals and nearly 300 clinics in nine states and four countries. Sanford Health’s 28,000 employees, including more than 1,300 physicians, make it the largest employer in the Dakotas. Nearly $1 billion in gifts from philanthropist Denny Sanford have allowed for several initiatives, including global children's clinics, genomic medicine and specialized centers researching cures for type 1 diabetes, breast cancer and other diseases. For more information, visit sanfordhealth.org.

About pgEd

The mission of the Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org) is to raise awareness and spark conversation about the benefits as well as the ethical, legal, and social implications of genetic information. We aim to be inclusive of all voices in these discussions, regardless of socioeconomic or educational background, cultural or religious affiliation, and ethnic or personal identity. Founded in 2006, pgEd’s efforts include providing online curricula, organizing workshops for professionals, holding Congressional briefings in Washington, D.C, engaging producers and writers of film and television, convening conferences, supporting an online learning tool (Map-Ed.org), collaborating with museums and libraries, and partnering with communities of faith.

This project is supported by the National Institutes of Health under grant number R25OD021895. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


Jacqueline Palfy
Sanford Health Media Relations
605-366-2432 / jacqueline.palfy@sanfordhealth.org