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A View from David Ewing Duncan

What A Concept: Docs Trained in Genetic Testing

Is an initiative at Harvard and with Navigenics the beginning of a trend to make physicians more familiar with the pluses and minuses of genetic testing?

  • October 21, 2009

The current yawning gap between the availability of genetic tests for common diseases and their usefulness for patients is due in part to a lack of physician training and familiarity with these tests. Many DNA markers that convey a higher risk for diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are preliminary in terms of their true predictive power for individual patients. But so was the cholesterol test 20 years ago. It took years of using and understanding the cholesterol test–and the collection of data on thousands and later millions of patients–to establish a cholesterol threshold as an acceptable guide to a person’s heart attack risk. This process needs to happen for genetic test as well.

A helpful step in bringing genetic testing into the exam room was announced today by Boston-based Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center and California-based Navigenics, an online genetic company that is emphasizing alliances with medical centers and has been pushing the idea of educating doctors. Here is the announcement run on GenomeWeb Daily News:

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - Navigenics and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston announced today that they will collaborate on training physicians in personal genomic testing.

Beth Israel has launched the Personalized Genomics and Next Generation Sequencing Training Program, which includes a series of lectures, discussions, and presentations, aimed at promoting a better understanding of the personalized genomics field and next-generation sequencing technologies. Among the specific goals of the program are fostering an understanding of issues related to the evaluation of direct-to-consumer genotyping services and familiarizing physicians with the interpretation of genomic information and its correlation with personal medical and health information.

As part of the program, residents will be given the opportunity to have their own genomes analyzed through Navigenics’ consumer genomics services.

“We believe that genetics and genomics will be critical to the future of health care,” Mark Boguski, of BIDMC’s Department of Pathology and the Center for Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement. “Training our residents on the leading genetic services and technologies will be essential to this future.”

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