The African Society of Human Genetics
The AfSHG was founded in 2003 with the aim of equipping the African scientific community and policy-makers with information and practical knowledge to contribute to the field of genomics research and to attract global attention to the efforts of African scientists.
A major objective of the society is to provide a forum for scientists in the broad enterprise of human genetics and genomics in Africa to meet, interact, network and collaborate. By achieving these goals, members of the AfSHG hope to bring attention to and help to facilitate the development of solutions to the huge public health burden of many rare and common diseases across the continent. It is indeed gratifying that the AfSHG and its members have successfully addressed some challenges while pushing forward with new strategies to address others. Since its inaugural meeting, in Accra (Ghana) with the theme ‘Biomedical Research in Africa with Emphasis on Genetics’, the AfSHG is providing opportunities for networking and collaboration among professionals working on genetic and genomic issues relevant to Africa.
By continuing and sustaining its efforts, the AfSHG will help diminish the widening gap between Africa and the Western World in biomedical science. Furthermore, its collaboration with the H3Africa Consortium will help to foster a contemporary research approach to the study of genomics and environmental determinants of common diseases with the goal of improving the health of African populations. In the absence of extensive research on the genetic contribution to diseases in diverse African populations, it would not be feasible to develop appropriate genetics services or to lay the ground work for the implementation of precision medicine approaches on the continent.
Many African countries do not have Departments for Human Genetics as a stand-alone discipline. Therefore, we need to be creative in nesting our discipline and activities in existing structures in our tertiary institutions, hospitals and health care sectors, and to promote its contribution to patient care. Despite the limited resources available in Africa, the AfSHG is growing and working towards achieving its goals.
The Southern African Society for Human Genetics is a multi-disciplinary non-discriminatory society with the aims of advancing the practice in science of Human Genetics in Southern Africa, facilitating contact between the various disciplines involved with the field, maintaining the highest ethical and professional standards and providing a forum through which education and contact can be maintained.
In 1978 a cytogenetic study group was established at the initiative of Drs. Molly Nelson and Renée Bernstein. Their first meeting was held at the Department of Human Genetics, University of Cape Town and thereafter they met on an annual basis.
On 1 July 1986 an inaugural general meeting of the Southern African Society for Human Genetics was held at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
There were 55 people present at this meeting and Professor Trefor Jenkins was elected as chairman and Professor Renée Bernstein was appointed the first secretary/treasurer.