NIH Expert to Discuss Genetics, Healthcare


ST. LOUIS — Dale Lea, an expert on genetic research from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NGHRI), will be the guest speaker at a public forum, “Healthcare in a Genomic Era,” to be held at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 29, in the Maryville University Auditorium. The event, which is free, is sponsored by the University’s School of Health Professions and the Maryville Omicron Iota chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, nursing’s international honor society.

Lea, a health educator in two branches of the NHGRI and a registered nurse, will discuss the constantly evolving relationship between the fields of genetics and healthcare. “New genetic and genomic research discoveries are ushering in a new era of healthcare: personalized medicine,” Lea said. “Personalized medicine has the potential to transform healthcare through earlier diagnosis, move effective prevention and treatment of disease, and avoidance of drug side effects. … It also creates healthcare that is proactive rather than reactive, and gives patients the chance to become more involved in their own wellness.”

Lea became interested in genetics when her mother, and later her uncle, were both diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers disease. She became a nurse because she wanted to provide support to patients and families who were facing similar illnesses in their loved ones. Her interest in genetics intensified in the early 1980s after she heard a “life-changing” presentation by a nurse who was practicing in Iowa as a genetic nurse.

Lea is speaking at Maryville at the invitation of Lottchen Wider, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing at Maryville University, who uses a textbook co-authored by Lea in her Genetics in Nursing class. “We are on the cusp of a revolution in healthcare,” Wider said. “On the one hand, it’s exciting, on the other, it has to be handled with great care. People have to be contemplative with what we’re doing, because there’s great potential for abuse. … Educators have a responsibility to prompt students enrolled in the health professions to consider potential ethical dilemmas associated with practice in a genomic era.”

For more information on the January 29 forum, contact Wider at

Maryville University is a private institution offering approximately 50 undergraduate, seven master’s and two doctoral degree programs to 3,422 students. Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s Best Colleges, Maryville University prepares its students for successful and meaningful careers. Among Maryville’s most recent graduates, 94 percent are employed or attending graduate school. Approximately 15,000 alumni work and live in the St. Louis region.