NEWBORN SCREENING & GENETICS
2021 APHL Newborn Screening Symposium : Collaboration Continues Virtually
By Dara Plath , associate specialist , Newborn Screening and Genetics
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic , no one anticipated how profoundly everyday lives would change . Nevertheless , babies continue to be born and need to be screened for rare disorders that could alter the course of their life . Behind the testing and follow-up are professionals whose commitment to public health forms the backbone of newborn screening ( NBS ).
Since 1981 , APHL ’ s Newborn Screening Symposium has convened hundreds of public health professionals from around the world to promote collaboration . Forty years later and with a pandemic in full swing , APHL shifted its NBS Symposium from in-person to online to ensure continuing support for these hardworking professionals .
Creating Lasting Connections
pre-recorded awards ceremony
that encouraged attendees to converse on the platform , reminded us of the importance of bringing joy and recognition to our colleagues . Encouraging attendees to post on social media also brought the experience of the symposium from the confines of the platform into the outside world .
Addressing Issues of the Present Moment
While the effects of COVID-19 informed many of the presentations , two sessions discussed the forces behind access to care . The keynote session focused on the social and ethical implications of genome sequencing and whether it can mitigate health disparities . The Health Equity session reminded participants that although we have recently been battling a viral foe , an epidemic of inequity within NBS requires attention .
The Parent / Patient Panel
was a favorite among attendees , proving that the backbone of NBS will always be families . Scheduled as the final session , the panel featured five families whose experience with NBS will help to inform new and constructive ways of communicating with parents .
Although the world has changed , it remains important to create a space where we can address the issues of our present moment and find solutions for a more favorable future . As we plan for future symposia , this means creating a space that allows maximum attendance and addresses issues that affect NBS personnel everywhere . In 2022 , we will consider the benefits of a hybrid model while remaining pragmatic about health concerns raised by COVID-19 . As always , our goal will be to support those whose work positively changes the lives of families everywhere . •
Once we knew the 2021 symposium would
also be virtual , maintaining an inclusive environment that promoted attendee connections became the chief challenge . The conference platform allowed for private messaging , but we fostered faceto-face moments through subject-specific roundtables . Creating social events helped to generate the sense of community that is sometimes lost in a virtual platform . A baking session with a sixth-grader who raises funds for rare pediatric diseases ,
22 LAB MATTERS Spring 2022