An interest in genetics, a passion for patient care, and a graduate school epiphany put Amy Curry Sturm on the road to 23andMe, where she recently assumed the newly created role of Director of Population Health Genomics.
We caught up with Amy to learn more about her career path, her plans, and why the phrase “no dead ends” has become her new favorite mantra.
The following is an edited excerpt of our conversation.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN GENETICS AND GENOMICS?
I was inspired from a very early age to go into a career where I could dedicate myself to keeping people healthy and preventing disease.
My background as an undergraduate was pre-med because I was very interested in medicine and disease prevention, but I also knew I never wanted to be a doctor.
I then went through a Ph.D. program in pathology, thinking I’d go into some area of research to prevent disease.
But I realized that I didn’t want to be working at a bench in a laboratory; I wanted to work more directly with patients and deliver amazing scientific discoveries directly to them.
Luckily, I found genetic counseling —a very young profession in the 1990s — and pursued my graduate degree in genetic counseling.
With that degree, I’ve been able to dedicate my career to using genetic information to prevent disease. And that’s what drives me, trying to utilize all that information to keep people healthy from a very young age. So I’m excited to do that now at 23andMe!
What are you focused on at 23andMe?
My role at 23andMe is Director of Population Health Genomics. I sit within the product organization, but I plan and hope to work across a lot of different areas within 23andMe.
My role involves working with the product team to look for ways to bring 23andMe’s vision and commitment to integrating genetic information into clinical care for patients.
One thing I really love that I keep hearing the product and design teams say is that there are “no dead-ends.”
That’s become a mantra as we build everything out. We want to truly give our customers no dead-ends; we want them to have the next steps they need to take action based on their genetic information to keep them as healthy as possible.
How does your new role differ from your past roles and responsibilities?
It’s extremely different from anything I’ve ever done. This is my first time working for a genetics company. My past experience has been working for major healthcare institutions.
I started as a genetic counselor in 2002, so over the past 20 years, I’ve worked at a large children’s hospital, a large university medical center (Ohio State), and then a large integrated healthcare system (Geisinger).
I’ve always worked within that healthcare space. I’ve had multiple different roles within those settings, ranging from taking care of patients and families directly as a clinical genetics counselor to leading large research initiatives and developing new programs from the ground up.
But I have always been industry-curious and interested in working within this space for a company like 23andMe.
It’s very different from anything I’ve ever experienced in my career, which is exciting! I love innovating and feeling like I’m in a cutting-edge space; I love building things from the ground up. So that motivated me to make the leap and finally enter an industry setting.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO WORK ON AS YOU LOOK TO THE FUTURE?
I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to help build the future delivery of new product offerings from 23andMe.
I’m thrilled to help build a path for individuals on their health journey. They can come to 23andMe, get their DNA insights, and learn personalized, preventive, proactive recommendations for their health and actions they and their families can take. We can provide the next steps on that journey and can also now deliver telehealth services via Lemonaid Health, now part of the 23andMe family.
The goal is to bring genetics into the primary care setting to deliver more personalized care. That goal is front and center – it’s what excites me to wake up and get to work every day!