Jul 23, 2008

Genetics Alliance Conference

A few weekends ago, I was up at the Bethesda North (read: Rockville) Marriott and Conference Center, attending the annual Genetics Alliance conference. Here was my chance to hob-nob with some of the biggest names in genetics advocacy, including Francis Collins (*swoon*). Did I conduct myself dignity, as is befitting a young woman of my intelligence and training? Lord, no.

On the first night, there was a dinner to celebrate the passage of GINA (the Genetics Information Nondiscrimination Act), complete with appreciation awards to all the participating congresspeople. I walked in right before the staffer accepting the award on behalf of Senator Kennedy broke into tears. It was all very touching and heartfelt. Afterwards, we were forced to sing along as the band played "G.I.N.A.," sung to the tune of (you guessed it) Y.M.C.A. It was painfully awkward, so of course I was having a great time. And then Christie and I recruited a few members of the younger crowd to dance like maniacs to the cover band, which composed entirely of genetics professionals. It was like Nerd Heaven.

But I did more than shake my money maker - I shook my connections maker. Or... something. Which is the whole point of these conferences, anyway. Hey, peeps in DC - who wants to let me sleep on their couch if I get an unpaid internship with the Genetics Alliance next year? Don't all talk at once.

The most interesting part of the conference was that Dr. Bod(1), the clinical director of my graduate school program, was there to accept an award. For those of you not in the know, Dr. Bod is a five-foot tall, white-haired, clog-wearing dynamo of genetics. She's so smart that her brain waves beam out in all directions, interfering with the navigation systems of low-flying aircraft and causing grad students to wet themselves. In other words, intimidating as all get-out. She doesn't mean to be - she actually has a quite friendly demeanor, which I noticed for the first time at this conference. It was weird to see her and not have the instant fear response that colored the majority of our interactions when I was a student. We acted almost like ... colleagues, as unbelievable as that was to me. Even though I feel like I'm spinning my wheels in this job, seems like I've made some progress. Go me.


(1) Name changed to protect the not-so-innocent blogger.

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