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Position Pieces

Vol 7 No 2 (2020): September 2020

Unsettling disciplinary frontiers: An opportunity to address inequities in genetic medicine?

  • Emily Hammad Mrig
DOI
https://doi.org/10.17157/mat.7.2.692
Submitted
December 21, 2018
Published
June 16, 2020

Abstract

Recent advances in genetic research provide anthropologists with an opportunity to reconsider the meaning and importance of interdisciplinary research. This piece suggests that interdisciplinary thinking can help to redevelop health policies aimed at improving access to new genetic technology and addressing many health care inequities. Drawing from research on access to genetic testing among women with a breast cancer diagnosis in the United States, I explore how patient perspectives can be used to redefine how policy makers interpret the utility of genetic medicine. Individuals undergoing genetic testing describe how genetic knowledge is translated into salient change in their lives, a view rarely recognized in conventional evaluations of genetic medicine. This work also recognizes how the ‘potentialities’ of genetic medicine both fuel the engine of ongoing genetic research and motivate individuals to imagine possible future actions to improve health. This reflection is meant to provoke debate and contribute to discussion about how health policies can be designed to improve inequities in access to genetic medicine.