Genetics faculty help open Guatemalan research institute

December 1, 2010

From left, Dr. Julio Cabrera, a retired Guatemalan geneticist, Susan Fernbach, Dr. Daryl Scott and Dr. John Belmont, all of BCM.
From left, Dr. Julio Cabrera, a retired Guatemalan geneticist, Susan Fernbach, Dr. Daryl Scott and Dr. John Belmont, all of BCM.

BCM geneticist Dr. John Belmont and genetics nurse Susan Fernbach have made the trip to Guatemala numerous times in the last 10 years for medical mission trips. On these trips they have provided health care to children and families with limited access and developed relationships with local health care workers that have helped make possible the establishment of a first-of-its-kind local genetic research institute.

The Institute of Human Medical Genetic Research, or INVEGEM, officially opened in October 2010.

The institute was founded by Dr. Gabriel Silva, who was mentored by Belmont. Silva also received special training at BCM in Dr. Sau Wei Cheung's Cytogenetics Laboratory.

The institute will offer diagnostic genetic testing and clinical research, along with education for future scientists, physicians and nurses in Guatemala and Central America.

"Dr. Silva has worked tirelessly to care for children with genetic conditions, educate physicians and medical students, organize a laboratory and obtain funding to expand these efforts," said Fernbach.

In addition to Belmont and Fernbach, Dr. Daryl Scott, assistant professor of molecular and human genetics, and other physician scientists in California, Germany and Spain were instrumental in fostering the establishment of this institute, Fernbach said. Belmont, Scott and Fernbach attended the opening.

Belmont is a professor of molecular and human genetics at BCM. Fernbach is director of genetic outreach at BCM.