Cultivating inclusivity in precision medicine research: disability, diversity, and cultural competence

  • Maya SabatelloEmail author
Original Article


Cultural competence is increasingly viewed as key for the inclusion of diverse populations in precision medicine research (PMR) in the USA. Precision medicine researchers and personnel are thus increasingly expected to undergo cultural competency trainings and to engage with relevant racial/ethnic communities to ensure that all research components are culturally and linguistically sensitive to these communities. However, the need for PMR enterprises to ensure competence with and understanding of disability rights, history, and needs (hereinafter disability culture competency) have not received attention. This article discusses the importance of disability inclusivity in PMR and the construct—and challenges—of disability as a cultural community. Reviewing and extrapolating from studies in healthcare settings, the article considers three interrelated issues that are likely to impact disability inclusivity in PMR: disability accessibility and accommodation; disability stigma and unconsious bias; and disability language and communication. Next, disability competency trainings that were developed in healthcare settings are surveyed and their applicability for PMR is discussed. The arguments advanced are that disability culture competency among precision medicine researchers, personnel, and oversight committees is essential to upholding the welfare and rights of human subjects with disabilities in PMR; that engagement with disability communities is imperative for this endeavor; and that such knowledge of disability culture is crucial for cultivating inclusivity of people with different (dis)abilities in PMR.


Disability Precision medicine research Health disparities Cultural competence 



This work was supported by grant funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI): K01HG008653.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Research on Ethical, Legal & Social Implications of Psychiatric, Neurologic & Behavioral GeneticsColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.NY State Psychiatric InstituteNew YorkUSA

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