ACMG Media Contact: Kathy Beal, 301-238-4582
Americans Urged to Start the Conversation About Their Family Medical
History on National Family History Day – Thanksgiving 2006
American College of Medical Genetics Offers Free List of Questions to Start the
Conversation About Family Medical History
This Thanksgiving is the third annual National Family History Day, as declared by the
U.S. Surgeon General. The American College of Medical Genetics encourages every
American to know their family medical history and if they haven’t already gathered this
potentially life-saving information, to Start the Conversation About Family Medical
History this Thanksgiving.
“Many Americans know that their family medical history is important. However with
daily life demands and families often separated by many miles, most of us have not
gathered what could be THE most important tool in protecting our health – our family
health history,” says Marilyn C. Jones, MD, president of the American College of
Medical Genetics (ACMG).
Why is family health history so important? Advances in genetics research mean that
knowing your family’s medical history can help your healthcare provider to predict
conditions for which you and your blood relatives may be at risk and to help you to take
actions to minimize risks and protect your health.
“That’s why we have put together a list of 5 questions that can be the important first step
in gathering your family’s medical history, starting this Thanksgiving Day when many
families are gathered under one roof,” said Michael S. Watson, PhD, Executive Director
of the ACMG. “Some families may already be collecting genealogic information but
haven’t gathered details about health history, so this will need to be added to the family
tree. And, should a concern be identified as families begin this important conversation, it
should be discussed with a healthcare provider, who can make a referral to a medical
genetics professional if necessary.”
“Gathering, recording and sharing your family medical history with your relatives and
care providers is an ongoing process as well as an important health habit that will help
you to prepare for the personalized medicine revolution of the 21st century. By ‘starting
the conversation’ and beginning the process this Thanksgiving, our hope at ACMG is that
lives will be saved and health problems for the future can be reduced,” said genetic
counselor, Judith Benkendorf, MS, CGC, Project Manager at The American College of
Five Questions to START THE CONVERSATION About Family Health History
This Thanksgiving from The American College of Medical Genetics:
1. Are there any health problems that are known to run in our family, or that close
relatives have been told are genetic? If so, what are these conditions?
2. Is there anyone in the family who had cancer, heart disease, or other adult-onset health
problem at an early age, such as between 20 and 50?
3. Does/did anyone in the family have mental retardation, learning problems, or have to
go to special school?
4. Have there been any early deaths in the family, including stillbirths, infant deaths,
multiple miscarriages, or shortened lifespan?
5. Have any relatives had extreme, unexpected or reactions to medications or therapy?
In addition, there are a variety of useful, important and easy-to-use tools in several
languages available to people to then further the gathering of family medical history
The U.S. Surgeon General’s Family History Initiative – My Health Portrait:
The U.S. Surgeon General’s Retrato de Salud de mi Familia (Spanish):
Multilingual versions of the U.S. Surgeon General’s Family History Tool in Chinese,
Polish, Spanish, French and Portuguese are available at the Brigham and Women’s
Hospital National Family Health Initiative Website at -
Instructions on Drawing a Family Tree and Collecting a Family History are provided by
the American Society of Human Genetics:
Frequently Asked Questions About Family Health History:
Find a Genetic Counselor Near You: http://www.nsgc.org/resourcelink.cfm
About the American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG)
Founded in 1991, the American College of Medical Genetics (www.acmg.net) is advancing the
practice of medical genetics and provides education, resources and a voice for 1400 biochemical,
clinical, cytogenetic, medical and molecular geneticists, genetic counselors and other health care
professionals committed to the practice of medical genetics. ACMG’s activities include the
development of laboratory and practice standards and guidelines, advocating for genetic services
in health care and in public health, and promoting the development of methods to diagnose, treat
and prevent genetic disease. Genetics in Medicine, published monthly, is the official ACMG peer-
reviewed journal. Its website (www.acmg.net) offers a variety of resources including Policy
Statements and Practice Guidelines, Educational Resources, and a Medical Geneticist Locator.