Genetic research is leading to a revolution in science, and the complexity of the issues involved is creating a challenge for reporters, according to the co-directors of Syracuse University’s new Gene Media Forum.
      The forum, created by the Newhouse School, is funded by a grant from JGS Inc. (The Joy of Giving Something) to improve public understanding of genetic science. The Gene Media Forum, launched last fall, provides access to national experts on genetic science and develops workshops for science reporters. It also maintains and makes available to journalists digitized videos to accompany genetic research stories.
      “It is clear that genetic research, especially gene sequencing, is revolutionizing the life sciences,” says forum co-director Donald Torrance, a professor in the broadcast journalism and television-radio-film programs. “It has implications for everything else done on Earth—ethics, finance, family planning, race relations, the arts. But as science becomes more complicated, science reporting becomes more challenging.”
      The forum’s president and co-director is Alan McGowan, an expert in science communications and former director of the Scientists Institute for Public Information (SIPI). According to McGowan, another aim of the forum is to facilitate debate of issues arising from genetic research. “We want to ensure that a fully informed public participates in decisions that must be made about this exciting science,” he says.
      Torrance and an assistant, along with student workers, are based at Newhouse and work mainly with broadcast journalists, while McGowan works out of SU’s Lubin House in Manhattan with print journalists. Fred Jerome, a consultant who works with scientists and science journalists, aids McGowan.
      Torrance and McGowan are currently developing workshops for journalists. In January, the forum held sessions on genetically modified foods and genetic testing. Work continues on an interactive web page that provides accurate, comprehensible information about genetic research. The forum also serves as a focal point for lobbying efforts to expand coverage of genomics in the media, and fostering SU-based research about public understanding of genomics and the role of news media in that process.
      McGowan says the forum has solicited experts for a referral service and will have thousands of names collected in a database this year. To help acquaint journalists and genetic experts with the different aspects of the forum, a monthly open house will be held at Lubin House. “We want to become the central place to which journalists of all kinds turn for news and information on the genetics issue," McGowan says.
                                                                                              —CYNTHIA MORITZ AND TAMMY DIDOMENICO



College of Nursing student Lisa Maronic ’99 stands confidently in front of an audience of high school students and tells the group about her clinical practice experiences in a neonatal intensive care unit. Through a hands-on exercise led by nursing professor Linda Webster G’92 and maternity nurse Maryann Dwyer, the group also learns about assessing the health of a mother and her newborn following the birthing process. As participants in the College of Nursing’s Explorer Post, the high school students listen intently because one day they may be assisting in a delivery room or caring for premature infants. “It’s good to get new people involved in nursing,” Maronic says. “It’s a great career.”
      Last fall, the College of Nursing launched the Explorer Post—part of a nationwide program sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America—as a community outreach initiative to teach local high school students about nursing and cultivate their interest in the profession. Program director Joseph Sexton (the college’s director of admissions), faculty, alumni, local nursing professionals, and student assistants like Maronic meet regularly with the Explorers to talk about the nursing field, provide career counseling, promote good health practices, and engage them in learning activities and observational experiences. In a session on emergency nursing, for instance, Crouse Hospital emergency room nurse Michele Lewis taught the group how to assess a patient’s chest pains, and the Syracuse Fire Department Rescue Company discussed pre-hospital trauma care and involved the Explorers in an emergency care scenario. “We want these young adults to develop a better sense of nursing,” Sexton says, “to understand the variety of roles nurses play and how to achieve optimal health.”
      The first part of the program focuses on the breadth of nursing career options and the nurse’s role. The second half covers disease and wellness issues, such as diet and nutrition, that affect the participants’ daily lives. Another goal of the program is to dispel myths about nursing careers, Sexton says. “We want to show these students that nurses are autonomous health care providers.”
      With both a nursing shortage and a decline in enrollment at nursing schools across the country, Sexton hopes programs like this will inspire young people to study nursing and enter the profession. To reach students, Sexton works with career planners at Syracuse-area high schools to identify students interested in nursing and other health professions.
      Melissa Lopez, a Henninger High School freshman, joined the Explorer Post to increase her knowledge of nursing careers. “I plan on going to college here, so this is a good opportunity,” Lopez says.
      As the meeting ends and the Explorers crowd around Maronic to ask questions, it’s apparent she has generated enthusiasm. “It’s great to see them so interested in nursing,” Maronic says. “This program really benefits nursing as a whole.”
                                                                                                                                       —DANIELLE K. JOHNSON

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