What’s the connection between genetics and a bowl of chili?

What’s the connection between genetics and a bowl of chili? That question will be answered by way of a hands-on exercise at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine’s Mini Medical School. The free three-part series, titled “Genes, Environment, and Choices,” will be held January 29 and February 5 and 12 at the school.

“With several different DNA testing kits available on the market today, we thought it would be helpful to not only look at what they tell us but also the bigger picture as in how genetics factors into the health of a given population,” said Dave Trinkle, associate dean for community and culture at the VTC School of Medicine, said.

In Part One (January 29), Charlotte Baker, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, will give an overview of the terms “population health” and “public health” and what causes disease among specific populations. In addition, Emily Doherty, chief of medical genetics and dysmorphology at Carilion Clinic and assistant professor at the medical school, will provide an overview of genetics and hereditary versus non-hereditary diseases as well as what DNA testing kits can tell us.

Baker will begin Part Two (February 5) by exploring how extracting information from sets of genetic data can be used for better health. Also, Kathy Hosig, director of the Virginia Tech Center for Public Health Practice and Research, and Julia Gohlke, associate professor of environmental health at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, will look at the interaction of environment and behavior with genetics, community health surveys, and why studies disagree.

Finally, Part Three (February 12) will focus on specific studies that tie health and genetics to the local community, by featuring faculty members from the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at Virginia Tech Carilion who will discuss some of the world-recognized research on human health being done at the institute. They will also shed light on research trials underway at the institute and how members of the public can become involved.

Each evening of the Mini Medical School will run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and include both talks and interactive activities. The series will conclude with a celebration and the awarding of certificates.

Spaces are limited. To reserve your spot, contact Courtney Powell at cbrakes@vt.edu or 540-526-2588.

Note concerning parking: Riverside Drive is partially closed due to construction. Visitors should enter the campus from Reserve Avenue. Ample parking is available in the deck. More information about construction plus a map to navigate around it is available on the Virginia Tech Carilion website.