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Archives & History

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Welcome from Our President and CEO

Nonprofits are notoriously head down and focused on today, thus they rarely pay attention to their history. History, however, is really about today - we, people and organizations, embody what came before. We are what we eat, we are made up of what has come before, our parts make the whole we are.

Genetic Alliance has a culture of understanding that we are a part of a much bigger whole. We have spent a good deal of time and energy creating a culture of boundarilessness. A culture of WE. A culture of openness. It is this culture that leads us straight into our history. Begun in 1986, we were first just a gleam in our founder Joan Weiss' eye. She fearlessly went where no human had yet tread - into creating a system for patient support and advocacy organizations dedicated to genetic conditions to grow together - the Alliance of Genetic Support Groups. This, before the Human Genome Project had started!

Our second executive director, Mary Davidson, also a social worker like Joan, brought us from focusing solely on patient organizations, into a partnership with the other stakeholders in the continuum of research to services. She began the effort to build a coalition to take on genetic information discrimination, that ultimately led to the passage of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. Mary understood that Genetic Alliance was part of an enormous transformation taking place in participant-centric research and services.

Along the way there have been some major supporters of Genetic Alliance, so big they must be named here in this welcome. I call out Michele Puryear, former chief of the Genetic Services Branch of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) of the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA), above all. Her deep understanding of the rightful place of families and lay organizations in the healthcare system allowed Genetic Alliance to grow from a small grant of MCHB of the HRSA to the robust organization it is today. Michele brought her vision for community engagement, combined with her expertise in medicine, and underserved communities, to Genetic Alliance and shaped who we were through our adolescent years. Muin Khoury sees the role we have to play in public health genomics, and we have often spent time side by side in the same trenches fighting to realize the power of the tools we have in our hands today. Steve Groft has been a staunch supporter through the years, even as rare diseases began to gain traction as a result of his actions, we were given many opportunities to contribute to that growth. Friends in industry and academia sustained us through the years, including Randy Scott (Genomic Health and InVitae), Reed Tuckson (formerly UnitedHealth Care, and now Tuckson Healthcare Connections) and Alan Roses of Zinfandel Pharmaceuticals. We are fortunately to have them and many many others, including our current Council, who call themselves the 'body that loves Genetic Alliance'.

Delve in, I hope you enjoy wandering through our history as much as we do. It is critical that nonprofits remember where they came from, to whom they should be grateful, and what the patterns of their existence offer. Finally, profound thanks to 2013 Intern, Daniel Arias.


Sharon Terry

President & CEO

About the History Project

With the passing of our 25th anniversary came a growing sense of a need for a repository of the history of Genetic Alliance. In 2013, with the launch of our new website, a new history-themed section of our website was created. This section seeks to act as a resource for historians, researchers, friends of Genetic Alliance, and all those interested in learning more about our excting journey as a nonprofit health advocate.

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26400 Woodfield Road #189, Damascus MD 20872 | Tel: 202.966.5557 | EIN 52-1571905

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