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All in the Family: Genetics and Family Health History Video
This nine-minute video from the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Center for Life Science Education, in conjunction with the School of Medicine, emphasizes the need for a complete family history as a way to predict and treat health problems. In “All in the Family,” Dr. Joann Bodurtha, a clinical geneticist at VCU, examines two young girls and interviews their parents, who are part of an extended family whose members have various health problems—ranging from severe myopia to genetic heart defects to connective tissue disorders. Discussions reveal that, even when families know they have a genetic condition, getting an accurate diagnosis can involve a good deal of medical detective work. The geneticist works with the family to create a family tree of health— containing information about health conditions that run in their family—which can be a powerful diagnostic tool. The video makes clear that, based on their histories and symptoms, the two younger girls in the family will need to have their hearts monitored preventively, perhaps for the rest of their lives. The video is part of a larger public education campaign called “Secrets of the Sequence,” a series of more than 50 downloadable videos and accompanying lessons for science educators worldwide. The videos help teachers apply genetic research across the biology curriculum and create an avenue for students to learn from leading scientists and ethicists about the moral, ethical, and legal impacts of recent discoveries in the life sciences. A lesson plan for the “All in the Family” video (one of five videos being produced to explain concepts in systems biology) is under development.
Program Director: Jacqueline T. McDonnough, Ph.D.
Award Years: 2007
Summary: Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine is an academic medical center in Richmond, Virginia. Its HHMI-funded initiatives include:
- The development of five new science videos and accompanying classroom lessons as additions to its successful educational campaign, “Secrets of the Sequence,” an Internet video series that highlights scientific advances and helps teachers apply genetic research across the biology curriculum;
- The creation of week-long workshops to expand teachers’ knowledge in systems biology, family history and genetics, and research design. The workshops will enable teachers to develop strategies to help students understand fundamental processes of biological systems and design and conduct their own scientific investigations; and
- The development of science education programs for students in grades 4–12 in partnership with science teachers from four public school districts in Central Virginia. Many of the activities take place at Virginia Commonwealth University’s ecological field station on the James River and in research laboratories at its medical college.