What Is Precision Medicine, Anyway?

Does the name Gregor Mendel send your head spinning back to high school biology class and a place of pea plants and Punnett squares? Not to fear.

Learn.Genetics, an educational website produced by the University of Utah's Genetic Science Learning Center, has been offering a fresh approach to science education since the late 90's via a nationally recognized web site filled with videos, images, graphics, and interactive games. Now the Learning Center, in conjunction with the Program in Personalized Health, is tackling the subject of precision medicine with a new web page packed with original content.

Precision medicine, or the ability to provide an individual with the treatment that will work best for them, is heralded as the next step forward in advancing health care. It's also the subject of the recent White House Precision Medicine Initiative. The new Learning Center content aims to help users understand precision medicine and what it means for them.

"This was an opportunity for us to provide information for people who might be seeing things about precision medicine in the news," explains Sheila Homburger, Science Content Manager at the GSLC, "and it's also a way to show people that what they learn in genetics and biology class applies to them personally."

The entire website takes extremely complex subject matter and boils it down for easy consumption, packaging it into interactive and visually appealing modules with videos and graphics.

Our mission is to make science and health easy to understand. One reason is so that people can better understand the options that their doctors can offer them,says Louisa Stark, Ph.D., Director of the GSLC. The more they understand, the better questions they can ask.

The success of GSLCs teaching modules like this one prompted Stark to be asked to attend the Precision Medicine Initiative summit earlier this year, and participate in a break out session about educating communities. With over a million unique visitors to Learn.Genetics each month, GSLCs website is the most widely used online education resource in the world.

There are gaps in easily accessible materials that can help the public understand precision medicine and what it means to them,; says Stark.

Recognizing this need, the University of Utah Health Science's Program in Personalized Health funded GSLCs precision medicine page and all of the resources offered on it.

"The wider community is going to be introduced to precision medicine no matter what. It's going to become standard of care," says Emily Coonrod, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Program in Personalized Health. "If patients are able to process the information they're being given in their clinical care, they'll be able to make better, more informed decisions that work for them."

Genes + Environment = Health

About the Author:

Shelly Minteer