Feature Story

The Next 100 Years



We asked researchers to transport themselves into the future.Here’s what Dr. Jehannine Austin from the Faculty of Medicine at UBC had to say.



Q
If you could transport yourself to the future, what would you be teaching/researching in 100 years?

Genomics, integrated with biomedical ethics, will be taught at age appropriate levels throughout the school system, so genomic literacy within the general population will be way higher than it is today. Everyone will be getting her or his own genome sequenced in utero, before birth.

Dr. Jehannine Austin, Department of Medical Genetics, Faculty of Medicine

A: My work would be totally different. Genomics, integrated with biomedical ethics, will be taught at age appropriate levels throughout the school system, so genomic literacy within the general population will be way higher than it is today. Everyone will be getting her or his own genome sequenced in utero, before birth. This genomic information will be used to allow for the correction or intervention of any genetic variations that would otherwise immediately ‘present’ life-threatening conditions. This intervention will happen only under tight control because society has learned from history and will have agreed that diversity in all its forms is incredibly valuable for the enrichment it brings to all aspects of life.

In the future that I like to imagine, psychiatric conditions are no longer stigmatized but are accepted and managed in the same way as are other common, complex illnesses. In this new context, I would be studying the specific ways in which genetic variations that predispose people to psychiatric illness, also increase their resilience, adaptability, and creativity. I would be developing strategies to help people living with psychiatric problems unlock the potential of the genetic variations that they carry, to help them achieve their full potential for happiness and fulfillment.

Q
How will the work you are doing now influence your field in 100 years?

A: My work will have contributed to increased awareness of the profession of genetic counselling and of the excellent outcomes it can provide for patients. The profession of genetic counselling will be as well known as medicine or nursing, and genetic counsellors will be integrated throughout all medical disciplines. Everyone will have a family genetic counsellor in the same way as we have family doctors now. The role of the genetic counsellor will be well understood too; people will understand that the genetic counsellor’s role is to help people to not only understand their genomes and how it relates to their health, but also to help people manage the uncertainty (because our genome is not nearly as deterministic as we might have imagined) and emotional issues that will often accompany genomic information.

Genetic counsellors will be the “go to” healthcare professionals for helping people to implement individualized lifestyle changes and to find prophylactic medications to reduce the risk of diseases to which they may be genetically predisposed. People will meet with their family genetic counsellor on an annual basis to review new developments in their lives and in genomic research and as a result, people will be living longer, healthier, happier and more productive lives.



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Explore this Series

Nearly every researcher searches for something — a clue, an anomaly, a missing link — that will unlock new knowledge about the world we live in.

In the first 100 years at UBC, discovery was paramount. The drive for invention and the need to understand cause and effect ushered in decades of eureka moments in labs, classrooms and in the minds of students and professors alike as relationships between things revealed themselves. 

But what will the next 100 years bring? We asked researchers across a range of disciplines at UBC to transport themselves into the year 2115 and imagine what they might be teaching and researching.

Discover what they envision and travel with them into the future.

UBC is proud to mark its 100th anniversary as a global leader in education, research innovation and community engagement.
Learn more about the UBC Centennial.

Story Credits

Thank you to all of our participants for their willingness to predict the unknown.

Special thanks to Tim Herron, Events and Technical Services Manager, Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, for giving us lots of space to be creative and Public Affairs for suggestions on researchers for the story.

Story team: UBC Communications and Marketing — Martin Dee, UBC Photographer; Margaret Doyle, Digital Storyteller; Michael Kam, Web Developer; Lina Kang, Web Coordinator; Adrian Liem, Manager, Digital Communications; Mark Pilon, Designer; Aida Viziru, Web Interaction Designer; Matt Warburton, Manager, Graphic Design.

Published: March 2016