By Karen Stokes
As National Minority Health Month begins, the All of Us Research Program and Hip-Hop & Health is highlighting Dr. Gina Paige, co-founder of African Ancestry.
African Ancestry is the world leader in tracing maternal and paternal lineages of African descent and has helped more than 1,000,000 people reconnect with the roots of their family tree.
In 2003, Paige and geneticist Dr. Rick Kittles founded African Ancestry and became pioneers of genetic ancestry tracing for black people worldwide.
“When you ask what I do, I’m in the business of being black and every day I commit myself to helping black people transform the way they view themselves and the way they view Africa,” said Paige.
Paige, who resides in Washington, DC, earned a degree in Economics from Stanford University and an MBA from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.
“I manage the business and Kittles, the leading geneticist, manages the science, and we’re able to coexist in a space that is known as genomic research,” Paige said. Paige added that in 2003, they were the only company that did African ancestry.
“I view African Ancestry as the opportunity for me to use the skill set I and my parents invested in to create something that has never existed before for a group of people I am passionate about, black people,” Paige said.
One of the other things that Dr. Paige and her cofounder Dr. Rick Kittles advocate for is the importance of the black community getting involved in health research and science overall. “If we don’t get involved, we won’t benefit from the future opportunities around health and medicine. We have to be at the table and driving our experience in it.”
Many of these “benefits from future opportunities” are related to precision medicine. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), precision medicine would enable doctors to use a person’s genes, lifestyle, social factors, and environment to identify their unique disease risks and prescribe the most effective treatments. It takes the traditional approach of medicine as “one size fits all” and moves it to “what size fits you.”
For everyone to benefit from these innovations, we must be a part of its development. Dr. Paige expressed there are a few things community members can do to empower themselves with tools and information. “First do your own research, secondly ask questions to trusted sources, and lastly get involved with research in any way you can.”
One of the programs locally that individuals can get involved in and that shares ancestry information with its participants is the All of Us Research Program at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The All of Us Research Program is an ambitious effort to gather health data from one million or more people living in the United States. Researchers can use this information to conduct studies. What they learn may advance precision medicine and improve health for generations to come.
You can learn more by visiting JoinAllofUs.org/wisconsin or calling (414) 955- 2689.