Evelyn Ortiz, 61, says she has always been “big on volunteering” but has never taken on a mission as big as All of Us, a nationwide effort to enlist 1 million people to participate in research gathering DNA and other health information for a massive database to advance precision medicine.
To recruit participants, Evelyn rides around on her motorized scooter, passing out flyers in her church. She also accompanies friends and neighbors to NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center to enroll in the groundbreaking research effort. She hopes to educate community members about the goal of All of Us, namely to create the largest, most diverse database in the U.S. so that researchers can develop more individualized treatments, known as precision medicine, for cancer, heart disease, and other medical conditions.
“It isn’t easy,” she says of persuading people to take the time to travel to the hospital to fill out a questionnaire about their lifestyle and personal and family medical history, provide urine and blood samples, and grant access to their electronic medical records. Height, weight, and blood pressure also might be measured.
“I’m trying to convince people, ‘It’s not going to do you any harm and it may do you some good,’” she says. “I tell them [precision medicine] is the medicine of the future, but you need people to volunteer in order to do the research. How did we get this far in medicine? By research, right?”