The History of CoSAGE

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In 1998 three MSU researchers, Dr. Rachel Fisher, a clinical geneticist, Dr. Jill Elfenbein, an audiologist, and Dr. Karen Friderici, a molecular geneticist, observed that several individuals from the same region in mid-Michigan shared a rare form of congenital deafness. They traveled to the nearby community to meet these individuals and their families. From the family histories, Dr. Fisher discovered that the persons with deafness belonged to five extended families. Importantly, all members of the five families were descendents of a small group of German Catholic immigrants that settled in mid-Michigan between 1836 and 1875 (Westphalia Historical Society, 1986). This early research became the Deafness Research across Mid-Michigan (DREAM-M) study. To guide the DREAM-M study, Dr. Fisher helped create two committees in the community: the Research Advisory Committee and the Research Ethics Committee. This community-MSU partnership led to the discovery of new genetic causes of congenital deafness The DREAM-M discoveries helped local families learn about the causes of congenital deafness in their families and helped them determine the best treatment strategies. Thus, DREAM-M has been a model for a successful community-academic partnership for genetic research. In 2008, Dr. Brian Schutte, a molecular geneticist, and Dr. Debra Schutte, a nurse gerontologist, joined the faculty at MSU and began working with the DREAM-M project to explore the possibility of expanding the existing community-MSU partnership to study other common and challenging chronic health problems. Toward this goal, CoSAGE was officially launched in the summer of 2009 with funding from the Michigan State University Foundation through a Strategic Partnership Grant.