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12.19.2017

New Curriculum Offers Health Care Providers Universal Genomics Education

The Universal Genomics Instructor Handbook and Toolkit – a new, free resource designed to educate clinicians in all medical specialties in genomic medicine – is now available to improve physician genomic education worldwide.

Developed by a team led by Richard L. Haspel, M.D., Ph.D., a pathologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and associate professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, the handbook and accompanying online toolkit were developed with funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Jeffery M. Vance, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics and the Department of Neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and director of the Center for Genomic Education and Outreach, was part of Haspel’s team.

The program builds on a genomic pathology curriculum created at Beth Israel Deaconess and then further developed by the Training Residents in Genomics (TRIG) Working Group – made up of experts in medical education, molecular pathology and clinical genetics formed through the Pathology Residency Directors Section of the Association of Pathology Chairs. The resources can be downloaded at www.pathologylearning.org/trig.

While the TRIG materials were geared toward pathologists, the universal toolkit can be adapted to any specialty. With these “plug and play” exercises, genes and diseases can be added to provide specialty-specific education so all health care providers can have introductory training in genomic medicine.

“Genomics has transformed medicine over the last decade,” said Haspel. “As almost every physician will have to manage issues related to genomic testing, it is critical that they have some knowledge in this area.”

Using a team-based learning approach, the curriculum guides students through four exercises: single gene testing, use of multigene assays, whole-exome sequencing, and polygenic disease testing and pharmacogenomics. Rich with handouts, presentations and detailed instructions, the handbook and toolkit contain everything needed to assist in local workshop implementation.

“Educating both emerging and already practicing physicians in genomics will continue to be a major challenge in the future, and this has been one of the active goals of the Center for Genomic Education and Outreach at the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics and the Department of Human Genetics,” said Vance, who is the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) representative to the Intersociety Coordinating Committee for Practitioner Education in Genomics (ISCC).

“While some of the cases were developed for use in the AAN courses Dr. Haspel and I have taught over the last several years, the beauty of the approach is that the materials can be easily tailored for almost any specialty. The genetic principles remain the same for each specialty, just the clinical context is changed. We have also used the universal toolkit material and the team teaching approach successfully in many of our classes for our Masters in Genomic Medicine courses for medical students at the Miller School.”

Haspel, Vance and their colleagues developed the materials as a part of their work with the ISCC, with educational design support from the American Society for Clinical Pathology. Demonstrating adaptability, the curriculum has been extensively vetted through highly successful workshops held at the AAN, American Heart Association and American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meetings.

“The Intersociety Coordinating Committee for Practitioner Education in Genomics is a unique group that enables individuals from diverse disciplines to discuss best practices and develop tools for genomics education,” said Haspel, who is also co-chair of the ISCC. “Through this collaboration, we have produced the highest quality educational resource that can promote genomics training in a wide variety of specialties.”

This work was supported by a National Institutes of Health grant (R25CA168544).

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