Our history

The British Society for Human Genetics

The professional organisations of genetic clinicians and scientists have always worked closely together.

In 1995 four professional organisations recognised that there would be advantages in becoming even more closely aligned, recognising the increasing importance of genetics in the practice of medicine. The Clinical Genetics Society, Association of Clinical Cytogeneticists, the Clinical Molecular Genetics Society and the Genetic Nurses and Social Workers Association jointly decided to form a British Society for Human Genetics, which would act as an umbrella organisation for the professions. The British Society for Human Genetics was launched on 1 January 1996.

The Association of Clinical Cytogeneticists and the Clinical Molecular Genetics Society later merged to form the Association for Clinical Genetic Science (now Association for Clinical Genomic Science) and the Genetic Nurses and Social Workers Association changed its name to the Association of Genetic Nurses and Counsellors.

The BSHG/BSGM has also welcomed groups with a special interest under its umbrella.  The first was the UK Cancer Genetics Group, and then The Society for Genomics Policy and Population Health which was inaugurated in October 2006, and became affiliated to the BSGM in April 2010. The SGPPH disbanded in 2013. The latest special interest group to form is the UK Fetal Genomics Group.

The British Society for Genetic Medicine

By 2013, it was felt that the name British Society for Human Genetics did not reflect the impact that advances in genetics and genomics were having on the clinical practice and research not only of its members, but also of healthcare professionals in non-genetics specialities.  BSHG became The British Society for Genetic Medicine in 2013.

From its inception in 1996, BSHG/BSGM had an administrative office in the Clinical Genetics Unit at Birmingham Women’s Hospital and employed its own staff. In March 2017, the administration was transferred to the Royal Society of Biology.


BSHG took over the organisation of the three-day British Human Genetics Conference from the Clinical Genetics Society in 1996.  The conference programmes reflect the exciting developments in genetic science and how these were translated into clinical practice alongside consideration of their ethical and social implications. Particular highlights were the concurrent symposia reflecting the particular interests of the constituent groups.  The conference was held from 1994-2008 at York University and attracted around 700 participants, peaking at 857 in 2004.  The three day conference then moved to Warwick for three years, and then to Liverpool (2013-14).  In 2015, BSGM hosted the European Human Genetics Conference in Glasgow.  From 2016, it was decided to change the format of the annual BSGM conference to a one-day meeting, held in London.  The focus is on genomic medicine, with topics chosen to be cross-cutting across genetic disciplines.

A highlight of the annual conference was the Carter Lecture in honour of the late Professor Cedric Carter.  In recent years this has moved to the Clinical Genetics Society annual meeting.  BSGM instituted a special BSGM lecture award.   Lecturers have included Professors Leslie Biesecker (NHGRI), Evan Eichler (Washington); Andrew Wilkie (Oxford); Jay Shendure (Washington) and Wendy Bickmore  (Edinburgh)

Reports, statements and advice

BSHG/BSGM has considered important topics in genetics throughout its existence, releasing reports and statements as appropriate.  In addition, it has responded to requests for information and advice from national organisations, including the Department of Health, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.  

Particularly important reports were those on The Genetic Testing of Children, and through the JCMG, Consent and Confidentiality in Clinical Genetic Practice.  Amongst its other statements, those on Genetics and Insurance and the Patenting of Genes were highly regarded.

Past chairs

Past Chairs of the British Society for Genetic Medicine/Human Genetics

2017 - 2019     Professor Anneke Lucassen

2015 - 2017      Professor Bill Newman (Manchester)

2013 - 2015      Mrs Angela Douglas (Liverpool)

2011 - 2013       Professor Sir John Burn (Newcastle)

2009 - 2011      Dr Christine Patch (London)

2007 - 2009      Dr Rob Elles (Manchester)

2005 - 2007      Professor Richard Trembath (London)     

2003 - 2005      Professor Julian Sampson (Cardiff)

2000 - 2003      Professor Neva Haites (Aberdeen)

1996 - 2000      Professor Andrew Read (Manchester)