Mission: Disrupt Health Disparities — Dr. Altovise Ewing

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Altovise T. Ewing, Ph.D., LCGC, Senior Science Leader — Global Health Equity and Population Science, Genentech

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I envision a future of healthcare where genetics is used to advance health equity. I deem this a critical and possible mission, and believe our work at Genentech is a step in the right direction to getting us there.

Dr. Altovise Ewing’s passion for health equity is personal. As a Black woman raised in the rural south, she recalls the long drives to the nearest hospital or clinic to meet the breadth of her family’s medical needs. She also recalls wondering “why does it take so long for us to access the care we precisely need and when we need it?”

“In 2021, I am encountering this exact experience with my mom as we speak,” she says. “Now, as a clinician-scientist and one who is keenly aware of the systemic barriers in healthcare that lead to stark differential health outcomes, I feel empowered in my ability to dissolve barriers and pose solutions.”

Dr. Ewing believes with the aid of genetics and population-based science, health equity can become a reality. Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., she says it’s imperative that the industry finally get this right and we can because: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”

In her role as global health equity strategy senior science lead, she is working to advance inclusive research and prioritize health equity as part of Genentech and Roche’s commitment to personalized healthcare. “Personalized healthcare integrates pioneering science with data, analytics, and digital technologies in the hope that we can help provide the best, most appropriate care for each individual,” she says. “Our approach is rooted in using data — spanning traditional clinical data and real-world data — to find new insights that can inform medicine development and improve care for people and societies. Through the explosion of real-world data, we are now able to gain a more accurate composite of patients from multiple and diverse datasets that can contribute to a deeper understanding of complex diseases and why some individuals respond, while others do not. There are vast opportunities to harness real-world data when fostering health equity for all patients.”

As part of her work, she helps teams to deliver on the promise of personalized healthcare for all with intentional data design efforts and strategic scientific partnerships that are poised to evaluate and eliminate disparities in care. “Ultimately, we aim to develop products that are guided by data that are inclusive and reflective of the diverse and underrepresented populations that are disproportionately burdened by disease,” Dr. Ewing says.

As one of the few Black Ph.D.-trained and U.S. licensed-certified genetic counselors, she says her journey has not been everything she imagined, but it has been everything that she needs for this purpose-filled moment to champion justice and health equity. “Within each of our respective lived experiences, there is value,” she says. “This merit impacts our ability to propose solutions that may ultimately translate into more just and equitable outcomes for patients worldwide.” (PV)

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