Friday, May 11, 2007

The Genomic Revolution AKA the birth of Personalized Medicine

An intriguing second post at the "official blog" for direct to consumer testing company DNA Direct brings some excellent points up.

These are points that I often use when trying to tell physicians what will happen if they don't learn genetics.

It often scares the hell outta 'em, or they say "nah no way, medicine is too complicated for the public to practice." Then they go back to practicing medicine the same way we have for the last century, microscopes, gram stains, and paper charts.

The problem has been festering away and the geneticists, internists and specialists have been asleep at the switch. A Summit was held on the subject Bruce Korf, president-elect of the American College of Medical Genetics realizes this. In fact he has been preaching about it for the last 6 years. You can read about it here, here and here.

Some questions

  • Who prescribes your blood pressure meds? Your Internists/Family Practitioner

  • Who refers you to specialists? Your Internists/Family Practitioner

  • Who encourages you to quit smoking? Your Internists/Family Practitioner

  • Who argues with insurance to get paid? Your Internists/Family Practitioner

  • Who doesn't have the time to see you let alone continue their medical education? Your Internists/Family Practitioner

I am collaborating with Dr Korf as well as leaders in Genetics and Internal Medicine at Yale, Mount Sinai and Harvard to develop a curriculum for residents. The problems

  1. Getting the residents to attend conferences on topics the perceive are of no use to them. (why is this? The reason: their instructors can't speak genetics let alone teach it)

  2. Finding physicians who speak genetics and can teach genetics. (There are 83 Geneticists who have certification in Internal Medicine)

  3. Getting Residents to understand Genetics (Most don't know introns aren't junk)

The solutions? Are tough. I think we need to teach the teachers, we also need to teach the medical students. Physicians have not changed our level of genetics understanding in the last 30 years. That's why they all think Huntington's is the prototypical genetic disease. When I tell them that MI is the new prototypical genetic disease they laugh. How can we fix these attitudes?

Even psychiatrists agree that genetics is important but they realize the lack of knowledge they have.

Whether it is your OB/Gyn missing indications for referrals 9 out of 10 times or 1 in 3 Internists who misinterprets a genetic test for APC. My oncology friends still don't understand mitochondrial inheritance.

Could the lay person do better? Maybe...But could they write a prescription for the Cox-2 Inhibitor they now should be taking? Who will send them to the surgeon? Who will admit you to the hospital? Who will read and review all the articles needed for your care? Who will?

The solution lies in your hands. The solution is to encourage your doctor to learn genetics. Ask him about DNA and your health, ask her about your drugs and your genes. Force the issue, read as much as you can. When your doctor refuses, leave her care. Find a doctor who will learn. But please, please, please don't leave it up to yourself.

The Gene Sherpa says: The solution is up to you. It is up to your doctor. It is up to all of us, together learning and teaching each other. To get the best health care possible. Delivered by a licensed health professional, not by Domino's..........Wake up people or Wal-Mart is where you will get your genomic revolution!!!


Berci Meskó said...

First: you could change your Blogger's Choice Award banners to link to the proper place where we can vote for you.

Second: it's a great and interesting post. We (some medstudents from around the world) plan to establish the International Student Network on Genetics Education. I'm going to write about it soon.

Third: here in Hungary, you can become a clinical geneticist after already being specialized in internal medicine, Gyn/ob or pediatrics. What about the US system? I ask you because in case I can start with clinical genetics there, then my residency training will surely take place in the US.

Thank you in advance!

Steve Murphy MD said...

Thanks Berci,
I have sent you an email. Let me know if you need help. I already have a didactic curriculum being tested in residents and am working on medical student topics now. ACMG that's the US genetics college requires 2 years of residency in any specialty PRIOR to genetics training.