Billion dollar health study enrolls 5,000th West Michigan participant

Posted at 5:10 PM, Oct 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-28 17:11:28-04

WEST MICHIGAN -- Regina Borowicz is one in a million. That's the number of people researchers hope to sign up for a 10-year nationwide, research project called "All of Us". People share their electronic health records, give blood and urine samples, and take surveys about their lifestyle.

"I had family that had strong diabetes. I had family that had cancers, and I'm hoping that by taking my DNA they might be able to figure out what gene it is," she said.

Borowicz is participating through Spectrum Health and is the hospital system's 5,000th program participant. It's a $1.45 billion dollar study the hospital system is a part of through the National Institute of Health. It's being called a 'historic effort' to 'accelerate research and medical breakthroughs.'

Principle investigator Dave Chesla says the project goes a step further by allowing not only researchers to access all the data but also patients.

"You can learn more about yourself probably through this program than you will through annual histories and physicals because you'll learn what you're doing right and you may also find out some things where you can improve," Chesla said.

He says of the million-person goal, 250,000 have signed up nationwide. Chesla says it's working to make medicine much more precise compared to research of the past.

"(Research of the past) doesn't take into account the diversity of the United States. So there's overrepresentation of males in research. There's overrepresentation of caucasians in research. So when we talk about precision medicine, getting care that's tailored to you as an individual, we have to know about people that are like you that are from where you're from that have similar choices to you," he explained.

He says this research project aims to interact with people while they are healthy. Borowicz says she's both anxious and excited to see what the next ten years brings.

She said, "I would love to be a part of saying, 'Yea, my DNA helped cure this person.'"

If interested in the All of Us Research Program, you can sign up here. You can also sign up at your next appointment or download the app.