Genomic medicine has gone mainstream, and health care workers need to be genomic literate. The field of genomics is growing so fast that practicing physicians are having a hard time keeping up with the latest innovations.
“Ever improving technology paired with decreased cost of testing has led to genomic information that opens new doors for patient diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. However, its speed of development has left a knowledge gap between discovery and effective implementation into clinical practice. As educators, we recognize that training medical students in genomic literacy can close this gap,” says Rebecca Wilcox, MD, who runs a first-year medical school course at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.
Dr. Wilcox is the co-chair of the Undergraduate Training in Genomics Working Group (UTRIG), an interprofessional team that is developing a new online genomics curriculum that will be available to medical schools to use in their programs by 2020. The group was formed under the Undergraduate Medical Educators Section (UMEDS) of the Association of Pathology Chairs (APC).
UTRIG’s work builds upon a genomics curriculum for pathology residents that was first developed by the Training Residents in Genomics (TRIG) Working Group under the leadership of Richard Haspel, MD, PhD, FASCP, with educational design support from the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).
Training medical students in genomic literacy certainly helps them thrive in this genomic era, Dr. Wilcox says, adding, “but it also empowers them to train those already in medical practice.”
The UTRIG Working Group, again with educational design support from ASCP, recently invited 14 medical students to participate in a full day, pilot education session at the ASCP 2018 Annual Meeting in October. The session provided hands-on learning exercises to students who worked in groups to problem solve. Instructors circulated among them to help troubleshoot and serve as guides.
The students, who came from all over the United States, were very engaged and open minded, according to Dr. Wilcox. “This generation is used to team-based active learning. They also offered constructive feedback that will help us make this curriculum even stronger,” she said.
“Understanding the basics of patient-centered genomics is essential for all medical students, since medical professionals in all specialties increasingly encounter such data during patient interactions, specimen analysis, and chart review,” said Lisa Friedman, a medical student who participated in the workshop. “Ensuring that medical students understand how to access and interpret resources in genetics will help us contribute to evidence-based individualized care throughout our training.”
Another participant who responded in an anonymous follow-up survey said, “I came away with a much deeper understanding of the implications of genomics, not just in pathology for cancer diagnostics, but for how it can really impact far-reaching aspects of patients’ lives in ways that every physician should be aware of.”
“It is exciting to see the work we began with pathology residents being expanded to medical students,” said Dr. Haspel, who also co-chairs the UTRIG Working Group with Dr. Wilcox. “Understanding genomic medicine is not only important for pathologists, but for all physicians.”
"ASCP is proud of its role in helping adapt the innovative TRIG curriculum to medical schools, thus ensuring tomorrow's physicians are equipped with the genomic literacy skills they need in this era of precision medicine," says Suzanne Ziemnik, Chief Officer for Learning and Educational Research at ASCP.
The work of the TRIG and UTRIG Working Groups is supported by an R25 grant from the National Cancer Institute. To learn more about the current TRIG program, see a schedule of upcoming workshops and access free genomics education resources for both pathologists and physicians in other specialties, visit www.pathologylearning.org/trig.