Western professor named to state task force on genomics, receives award

CULLOWHEE – It’s been a busy spring for Christine D. Stevens, head of Western Carolina University’s department of health sciences, who has been appointed to a statewide genomics task force and received the state’s top award in the field of immunology.

Stevens was recently selected to serve on the 30-member North Carolina Task Force on Genomics and Public Health, established by the N.C. Division of Public Health’s Office of Genomics in 2002. The task force is working to develop a collaborative plan to educate the general public and primary care physicians about genomics, advise state policy-makers, and incorporate genomic epidemiology into existing state registries.

“As we enter a new century, health care is undergoing phenomenal changes, driven in part by the Human Genome Project,” said Donna Spoon, task force coordinator. “It is critical, as new genetic discoveries evolve, that health policy makers incorporate these new discoveries and challenges into policy and practice.”

Stevens also was selected recipient of the “Immunologist of the Year” award presented by the N.C. Society for Clinical Laboratory Sciences at the organization’s annual state meetings in Wilmington. The award was presented to Stevens by Dan Southern, professor of health sciences at Western and president of NCSCLS.

A member of Western’s health sciences faculty since 1988, Stevens teaches in the clinical laboratory sciences program. She helped procure a $20,000 grant from the N.C. Biotechnology Center in 1999 to obtain diagnostic equipment to give students hands-on experience using new techniques in biotechnology, include DNA analysis and other genetics procedures.

Stevens is currently working on developing a new course in molecular diagnostics to give Western students training in the type of technology that would be used in genomics for identifying an individual’s susceptibility to disease based on genetic makeup. The course would be part of a new clinical forensics minor currently under study.