DMSC professor talks medical genetics with the community

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What are genes and how do they define us?

Medical genetics is a rapidly evolving field that has given scientists a better understanding of the role genes play in heredity, health, and disease. Jane Gair, a Teaching Professor with the Division of Medical Sciences (DMSC) at the University of Victoria, is sharing that knowledge with the local community through a series of speaking engagements.

“I believe that universities have a responsibility to share the knowledge of their experts with the community,” she said. “Ultimately, the work we do is to benefit them; it makes sense, then, that we explain how it’ll benefit them, and in a way that’s interesting, informative, and easy to understand.”

At the Yakimovich Wellness Centre, an Island Health resource hub designed to support the needs of seniors and their caregivers, Gair introduced community members to basic concepts about genetics, health, and medicine, as well as explained how these three pillars interrelate.

“The group was keen and engaged – they kept me on my toes, “said Dr. Gair. “Such a reaction really invigorates me about my field and my work.”

On July 5, Dr. Gair also gave the opening presentation at Genetics Day, a partnership event between the Royal BC Museum and Let’s Talk Science, the latter an award-winning outreach organization that engages children in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

The event introduced young students to family genetics and featured an exhibition, called Family: Bonds and Belonging, that challenged participants to rethink what “family” means and to learn more about the evolution of familial ties of First Nations, early settlers, and immigrants in Canada.

Roughly 60 students attended Dr. Gair’s presentation – who is also the Director for Let’s Talk Science’s UVic branch.

“It was great fun to speak to this group of young, budding scientists about what I love and getting them excited about it, too!” she said.

Later this year, Dr. Gair will take part in two other speaking engagements: at the Canadian Association of Genetics Counsellors (CAGC), in September; and, in October, at the Wellness Conference in Ontario, where she'll be the keynote speaker.