Harlem Word: Dr. Elizabeth Cohn talks about her precision medicine videos

GHHEditor April 4th

Dr. Elizabeth Cohn is a researcher and health activist working on precision medicine and genomics. She has academic posts at both Adelphi University  and Columbia University, where she works to improve the diversity of gene banks so that medical research will include a wider range of people from different backgrounds and ethnic groups. She is part of the national All of Us program, a precision medicine initiative launched by President Obama. She is also a board member of Harlem Health Revival, a group that devotes itself to making sure everyone, regardless of background, has an equal opportunity for good health and improving the overall health of Harlem Communities. In this article she talks about the precision medicine videos she created in collaboration with the Harlem community to help people understand what precision medicine is and how it works.

 Q: How did you come up with the idea for the videos that you created to educate people in Harlem about precision medicine?


A: They were designed by the community for the community. We wanted a way to educate people about precision medicine that would be entertaining and easy to understand. We brought several groups of Harlem residents together to find what they thought the most important questions were, what kind of characters and format they would be comfortable with, and came up with several videos focusing on what community members said they wanted using the graphic novel format.


Q: Can you tell us more about the videos?


A: The videos explain precision medicine to people in everyday terms. They’re presented as a conversation between two Harlem residents, a father and daughter, who are learning more about it by watching an address by President Obama and other information online. The video story is set up like a graphic novel, so that it’s fun to look at and not just a “talking head” of a researcher discussing technical subjects.


For instance, the videos cover the basics of precision medicine—such as  how to enroll in precision medicine studies, the benefits of doing so, (financial and otherwise) and how scientists involved in these studies will protect your private information. You can find them here: http://www.precision-medicine.us/.



Q: What’s your plan for the videos?


A: Now that they are posted on the GetHealthyHarlem.org website, we are starting to talk with the Harlem and Washington Heights communities about precision medicine. We want to talk about what precision medicine is, and how it might be used in the future. We want the videos to spark conversations in these communities—and maybe other communities in New York City and elsewhere that want to learn more.


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