The Health Promotion and Genomics (HPG) Lab, directed by Dr. Lei Shih Chen, was established in 2009 to focus on the cutting-edge field of public health genomics. The field of public health genomics is linked to other research areas in which Dr. Chen are interested in. These include, but not limited to, genetic testing/screening, cancer prevention and control, health disparities, and health education.
The primary mission of the Health Promotion and Genomics Lab is to train and engage health educators to maximize the benefits of genomic discoveries and minimize the potential harm to the lay public and underserved populations.
“Because genomic advances bring the promise of personalized health care and health promotion, the full impact of genomics on public health remains unknown. Further, most health educators are not prepared to adopt genomic competencies in their practice,” says Dr. Chen.
Currently, the Lab is developing, implementing and evaluating an evidence-based cancer genomics training program for practicing health educators. This is the first training program of its kind for health educators. Dr. Chen hopes this project impacts the provision of prevention and control services by:
Additionally, the HPG Lab is conducting an international comparison project to examine the awareness, knowledge, attitudes, and education needs for autism genetic testing among American and Taiwanese parents of children with autism spectrum disorders. This is a timely topic because the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders has increased and the technology for autism genetic testing has improved. Dr. Chen hopes this research will shed light on the similarities and/or differences among U.S and Taiwanese parents' perspectives regarding autism genetic testing.
Finally, the HPG Lab is working with several major Chinese American communities in the Southern U.S. to examine Chinese Americans’ views and knowledge regarding genomics. Because there is a paucity of literature in this area, Dr. Chen hopes this project can reduce genomics-related health disparities.
Dr. Chen’s career dream is to have a lasting impact on the health education profession, particularly the health educators. Consequently, an important part of the lab is training the next generation of health education researchers. Students in the Health Promotion and Genomics Lab participate in weekly group meetings where they present and discuss their projects. This provides an opportunity for students to learn research skills and ethics. Further, the group meetings create a team-learning atmosphere and facilitate potential collaboration among all the students. Both graduate and undergraduate students conduct and assist with Health Promotion and Genomics Lab activities, including writing and submitting articles and abstracts and conducting state and national presentations. Dr. Chen’s expectation for her students is to be top researchers in the field.
The Health Promotion and Genomics Lab has received support from numerous communities, funding agencies, universities and many other stakeholders. “When we publish manuscripts and give presentations at professional conferences, this is not only our own work – it is the work of many people. Thus, I hold myself and my students to a high level of integrity so that our work reflects the truth of science and the voice of the communities and participants with whom we work”, says Dr. Chen.
To learn more about the Health Promotion and Genomics Lab, visit the Lab website at http://lacechen.tamu.edu.