Project GE:NES

Genomics Education: Nurturing, Empowering, Sustainable

Advancing the goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of genomics. We empower students to make decisions about healthcare and research participation.

blue DNA helix and font logotype
blue DNA helix and font logotype

Advancing medical technologies may exacerbate health disparities. In genomic science, Black scientists and research participants are underrepresented. This has dire consequences for physicians’ ability to treat and diagnose patients of color. Even though this issue is multifaceted, researchers and policymakers have identified health literacy as a means to reduce health disparities. After-school STEAM programs offer an outlet for youth to engage in the local community and provide exposure to topics such as health and genomics.

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital is currently addressing this gap by implementing Project GE:NES in our diverse South Florida community. Project GE:NES is an ongoing after-school program that focuses on increasing genomic literacy while simultaneously empowering Black youth to play an agentive role in their healthcare. With their interdisciplinary expertise, the Personalized Medicine and Health Outcomes Research team at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital is uniquely positioned to promote equity in genomic medicine while strengthening relationships with our communities. 

Program Goals

With an after-school program for high school students in collaboration with Overtown Youth Center (OYC), we aim to empower Black youth to:

  • Take an agentive role in decisions regarding their healthcare and participation in research;
  • Share their knowledge with members of their families and communities; and;
  • Consider educational and career trajectories in the genomic sciences and other related STEAM career opportunities.

Program Highlights

  • 8-week after-school program focused on Genomic Science
  • Complimenting existing after-school educational programming
  • 20 students participate in each Project GE:NES after-school course per semester
  • Curriculum includes Project GE:NES “Career Day”, where students meet various guest speakers who work in a variety of STEAM careers
  • Virtual and in-person modalities

Topics to include

  • DNA: What is it and what does it do?
  • Human diversity and variation; ancestry, race, and ethnicity
  • What’s epigenetics? The role the environment may play in your genes
  • What are genetic diseases? Inherited versus non- Inherited diseases
  • Why medical family history matters
  • Genetic testing and direct-to-consumer products
  • The importance of participating in medical research
  • Understanding the science behind COVID-19 and vaccines

Research component: Nicklaus Children’s researchers will conduct interviews, observations, and questionnaires to measure program effectiveness and contribute to general knowledge.

Our Team

Dr. Paula Espinal,MD, MPH

Manager, Personalized Medicine Research, Principal Investigator for Project GE:NES
Expertise in genomics medicine, epidemiology, health disparities, community engagement, & population medicine.

Dr. Evelyn Dean-Olmsted, PhD

Manager, Health Outcomes Research, Sub-Investigator for Project GE:NES
PhD in anthropology with expertise in language and communication, and race and ethnicity.

Dr. Sandy Gonzalez, PhD

Senior Research Associate, Sub-Investigator for Project GE:NES
PhD in Psychology with expertise in child development, dual language learning, and assessment creation and validation.

Yolanda Perez, BHSA

Outreach Associate, Marketing and Logistics Coordinator for Project GE:NES
Expertise in community engagement.

Wanda Payton, BSBA/BM

Project Coordinator for Project GE:NES
Expertise in administrative operations, community engagement and programming.

This program is supported with funding from the Miami Dolphins Foundation.

Community Partners