The American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics stands at the forefront of education and training in genomic healthcare. 

Jerry Feldman

Jerry Feldman, President of ACMG

Jerry Feldman, president of the ACMG, has had a front row seat to some of the most dramatic developments in genomics, from an early career medical in paediatrics and newborn screening, to broader innovation in molecular diagnostics. His involvement with the ACMG has brought a new element to his career: educating and inspiring the next generation of medical geneticists. Ahead of this year’s Annual Meeting he sheds some light on his career highs, and the challenges inherent in securing the genetic workforce of the future.

FLG: You started your career with an undergraduate degree in Biology from Indiana University. What was it that made you first interested in science and then subsequently medicine and genetics?

JF: I remember that way back in the sixth grade or so, I wrote an assignment that said ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I still have it and it says that I wanted to be a doctor; it’s pretty funny. I would say I had an interest for many years and that many of the science projects I worked on in grade school were medically orientated.

Check out the rest of our interview with Gerry Feldman in the latest issue of Front Line Genomics magazine

Then in college in Indiana, I became quite interested in genetics when I took a course in genetics and I ended up working on an independent research project with the professor who taught that course. He wasn’t a human geneticist – he was working on algae – but he knew that I was interested in more clinical areas of genetics, so he suggested that I meet with one of his colleagues who was in the Department of Medical Genetics at the Indiana University School of Medicine. So I did that, and that’s how I began my career in genetics: by starting first in graduate school and working towards my PhD in genetics and then subsequently I went on to medical school, both at the Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University.

I had some amazing mentors during that time who were all physicians practicing medical genetics, combining their interest in research and genetics. They were instrumental in my career.

FLG: When you were studying medicine you did your residency in paediatrics and later you acted as the programme director and lead investigator in the newborn screening management programme. What initially drew you towards the field of paediatrics and newborn care?

JF: My initial interest in medical genetics was primarily based in the field of biochemical genetics and that’s what my Ph.D. thesis was on; it revolved around a particular metabolic disease that was eventually identified as a disorder called Biotinidase Deficiency. That disorder really became the poster child for newborn screening, in the sense that it’s a treatable metabolic disorder if diagnosed early in infancy before symptoms begin. So newborn screening really fit into my goals as a medical geneticist, which was to be involved in preventing these types of devastating consequences in those disorders if not diagnosed and treated early.

I knew that my interest was in that field, and therefore paediatrics was the right specialty for me to be trained in because I knew I was going to be involved in taking care of infants and children. That’s where I think the intervention of a medical geneticist makes such a difference.

Check out the rest of our interview with Gerry Feldman in the latest issue of Front Line Genomics magazine