ROCKVILLE, MD - The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) has named Jeffrey N. Weitzel, MD, and Kathleen Blazer, EDD, MS, LCGC, as the 2019 recipients the Arno Motulsky-Barton Childs Award for Excellence in Human Genetics Education. Dr. Weitzel is Chief of the Division of Clinical Cancer Genomics and the Cancer Screening and Prevention Program at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Blazer directs City of Hope's Cancer Genomics Education Program (CGEP).
This award recognizes individuals for contributions of exceptional quality and importance to human genetics education internationally. Awardees have had long-standing involvement in genetics education, producing diverse contributions of substantive influence on individuals and/or organizations. Drs. Weitzel and Blazer will receive the award includes a plaque and monetary prize, on Tuesday, October 15, during 69th Annual Meeting in Houston, Texas.
For over twenty years, Drs. Weitzel and Blazer have worked together to provide innovative and impactful cancer genomics education to clinicians and researchers from diverse training backgrounds and practice settings across the U.S. and internationally. Their National Cancer Institute-funded CGEP initiatives have ranged from educating primary care physicians for referral-level competence, to preparing master's and doctoral clinicians for leadership in translational cancer genomics research. They have also provided lay-oriented conferences and workshops for high-risk patients and their families, including programs entirely in Spanish.
Perhaps the most impactful and far-reaching CGEP initiative is the Intensive Course and Clinical Cancer Genomics Community of Practice (CCGCoP). The CCGCoP prepares community-based physicians, physician assistants, master's-level genetic counselors, and advanced-practice nurses for practitioner-level competency in genomic cancer risk assessment, and provides ongoing practice-centered support to all course alumni. The goal of the CCGCoP is to increase the number of clinicians who are able to translate rapid genomics advances into cancer risk assessment, management, and preventive care.
In his nomination letter, Kenneth Offit, MD, MPH, Chief, Clinical Genetics Service and Vice Chairman, Academic Affairs at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, stated, "In an era of low-cost-next-generation sequencing technologies, they have personally trained a new generation of cancer genetic practitioners versed in the nuances of cancer genetic testing and able to more effectively guide patients and their families through the process,"
To date, the program has more than 1,000 alumni distributed across all 50 states and 27 countries. With an eye to implementation and improving care for underserved Hispanic patients, Drs. Blazer and Weitzel attract many international participants to the program, largely from Latin America. This training has enabled more than 3,000 underserved patients to receive state-of-the-art genetics cancer risk assessments.
Dr. Weitzel was one of the first physicians to complete formal fellowships and hold board certifications in both medical oncology and clinical genetics. Dr. Blazer is a board-certified cancer risk genetic counselor and has a Doctor of Education Research. Through their combined experience in the field and knowledge of best practices in education, they've been able to adapt their curricula yearly to include new genetics findings as well as better the methods of learning.
Concluding his nomination letter, Dr. Offit added, "Drs. Weitzel and Blazer's contributions to education in cancer genomics take many forms, reach across numerous borders and improve countless lives. [Their work] represents that unique synergy of genetic counseling and genetics education."
Drs. Blazer and Weitzel are longtime ASHG members. Dr. Weitzel additionally serves as the inaugural holder of the Dr. Norman & Melinda Payson Professorship in Medical Oncology at City of Hope, and Dr. Blazer is an assistant professor of population sciences at City of Hope.