Background

In 2015, former President Barack Obama launched a national Precision Medicine Initiative indicative of the shift in the practice of medicine toward more targeted approaches to disease prevention and personalized treatment within the U.S. healthcare system. As the Initiative materials explain: “Until now, most medical treatments have been designed for the ‘average patient.’ As a result of this ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, treatments can be very successful for some patients but not for others. Precision Medicine, on the other hand, is an innovative approach that takes into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles.” 

At the national level, it is becoming clear that new and currently practicing physicians are not well equipped to handle this new approach, known as Personalized (or Precision) Medicine, which asks health care practitioners to tailor patient communication and decision-making to varying levels of health literacy, and treatment and prevention strategies to other unique patient characteristics, including their genome sequence, microbiome composition, health history, lifestyle, and diet. Particularly with regard to genomics-based testing applications in patient care for inherited disease, cancer, patient stratification based on genetic risk factors, and pharmacogenomics, a new skill set is required of physicians.

Objectives

Students who complete the certificate will be able to appropriately:

  • Describe the expertise of genetic counselors and ways to effectively collaborate with them
  • Communicate about direct-to-consumer genetic tests results and limitations
  • Successfully navigate the ethical, legal, and social issues inherent in generating genetic information and communicating genetic test results
  • Analyze next generation DNA sequencing data to identify DNA mutations and variants that may cause disease
  • Interpret clinical reports about genetic information to:
    • Recognize how different genetic variant classifications should impact clinical decisions
    • Communicate genetic test results to patients in a manner appropriate to an individual’s health literacy level
    • Contrast this information with direct to consumer (DTC) genetic testing products

Schedule

Example Activities Within The Certificate

The Certificate will engage students with experiences that demonstrate how concepts that students are learning in their didactic Personalized Health Care courses are put into practice and impact patient care. These include:

  • Shadowing a genetic counselor in one of several clinics within the University of Utah Health Care System
  • Touring ARUP Laboratories, the University’s national reference lab and a leader in developing genomics-based clinical diagnostic tests 
  • Participating in an annual academic scientific symposium with a focus on personalized medicine

This Certificate requires a significant commitment of ≥ 10 credit hours of additional course work in Personalized Medicine or related electives in addition to the standard medical student curriculum.

Typical Certificate Schedules, totaling 15 course credit hours:

Year 1 Fall MD ID 7250/MDCRC 6150 Foundations in Personalized Health Care (2 credits)
Year 1 Fall MDID 7300 Foundations of Medicine (2.5 credits)
Year 1 Spring MD ID 7251/MDCRC 6370 Genetics and Medicine: Ethical, Legal and Social Issues (2 credits)
Year 1 Spring MD ID 7310 Molecules, Cells, and Cancer (2.5 credits)
Year 2 Fall MD ID 7253/PED 5750 Genomic Analysis I (2 credits)
Year 2 Spring MDCRC 6141: Experiences in Personalized Medicine (1)
Year 3 Spring / Year 4 Fall MD ID 7255/MDCRC 6940 Personalized Health Care Capstone (0.5 - 1 credit, may be repeated)
Year 4 Spring BIOC 7201: Genetic Therapies (2 credits)
Student may also receive optional research credit towards the certificate between years 1 and 2, depending on the project and mentor.

 

Contact

Amy J. Hawkins, PhD

Pathway Director
Instructor, Department of Biochemistry