Nicklaus Children's Joins With Community Partners to Promote Genetic Literacy Among Students in Overtown

Published on: 03/07/2022

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital is pleased to collaborate with the Overtown Youth Center (OYC) and Miami Dolphins Foundation in the creation of Project GENES, an after-school genomics curriculum explicitly geared to young people of color. By increasing genomic literacy, the program aims to empower students to make informed decisions about their healthcare and participation in research, as well as develop an interest in STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and math). 

“Black scientists and research participants are underrepresented in genomic medicine. With this initiative we hope to help close the gap,” said Paula Espinal, MD, MPH, Manager of Personalized Medicine Research for Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. “Research shows that students who participate in after-school STEM programs increase their knowledge and skills and have a higher chance of graduating high school and pursuing STEM studies in college,” she said.  

The program, first offered in the fall of 2021, enrolls students in an eight-week after-school learning series integrated into OYC’s existing programming. Based on the success of the initial offering, which served 40 students, the second eight-week program began on February 23 with a new group of students. 

During Project GENES, South Florida Black youth are exposed to the revolutionary field of personalized medicine, a comprehensive approach to tailoring medical management to each patient’s unique profile. Topics include genetic vs. social and environmental influences in health and diseases, direct-to-consumer genetic testing, research ethics, and the genomics of COVID-19 and mRNA vaccines development. 

Nicklaus Children’s developed the curriculum and recruited renowned Black scientists and medical professionals from around the country to present to students. OYC is hosting and recruiting students for the program. Funding is provided through a generous contribution from the Miami Dolphins Foundation. 

“We are grateful for our partnership with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for helping bring Project GENES to our students. It is our hope that together we are making a difference in the interests and career paths of those we serve,” said Diana Santangelo, OYC, Chief Programs Officer. 

“We appreciate the intentional efforts by Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to help combat systematic health issues and address disparities in our community,” said Jason Jenkins, Miami Dolphins Senior Vice President, Communications and Community Affairs. “Project GENES will continue to inspire and motivate positive educational outcomes for our youth.”

Learn more about Project GENES.

About Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Where Children Matter Most (2023)

Founded in 1950 by Variety Clubs International, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital is South Florida’s only licensed specialty hospital exclusively for children, with approximately 850 attending physicians, including more than 500 pediatric subspecialists. The 309-bed hospital, known as Miami Children’s Hospital from 1983 through 2014, is renowned for excellence in all aspects of pediatric medicine with many specialty programs routinely ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report since 2008. The hospital is also home to the largest pediatric teaching program in the southeastern United States and since 2003 has been designated an American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Magnet facility, the nursing profession’s most prestigious institutional honor. For more information, please visit

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