Using a computer drawing and video recording application, intern Neil Rens has helped create videos designed to educate doctors, patients, students and others about genomic medicine.


AUGUST 21, 2013

Rapid advancements in DNA mapping have created new tools to personalize medical treatment, but many doctors remain ill-informed on how they should use genetic information to manage patient care.

That’s the main reason the Scripps Translational Science Institute is trying to develop an online video program to educate physicians, students and others about genomic medicine.

As genetic sequencing — the mapping of the biological code that shapes each person — expands from research labs into doctors offices, some are calling for better education about its growing role in medicine. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps institute and chief academic officer for Scripps Health, said genomics has an increasing impact on prescribing medicine and diagnosing diseases.

The institute has worked on the education project since 2010, when it received a $300,000 grant from the Life Technologies Foundation to establish an online program that would credential doctors in genomics. The effort has since been broadened to include educational videos for a wider audience, including patients and high school and college students.

Some of the videos might be presented on a platform like the Khan Academy, which provides free online video tutorials on a variety of topics and is frequently used by K-12 and college students.

For doctors, the Scripps genomics videos would be provided as part of a formal continuing-education program. It must be able to authenticate users, so that people who complete the program would receive proper credit.

“It has been well-documented that far less than 10 percent of physicians feel comfortable with any genomic data of patients, which comes into play especially in prescription medications that have a (Food and Drug Administration) genomic label,” Topol said. “There are 110 medications like that, many of them in common use.”

In those cases, Topol said, doctors are supposed to get a patient’s genotype before they prescribe the medication. But too often, he said, the physicians don’t take that step.

Topol said the education program has been delayed because there’s not enough money to fully produce and launch the videos, along with the need to find an adequate platform that would reach targeted physicians. Once the program is up and running, Topol said he hopes to generate positive “buzz” in the medical community.

“Even the medical schools today don’t teach enough in this area,” he said. “Genomics really took off in the past five years in terms of sequencing and all the things we’ve learned. So many of the drugs have genomic information in prescribing; that wasn’t part of any doctors’ training.”

The Scripps institute made progress this summer when some interns worked on the program. John Hopkins University sophomore Neil Rens, 19, wrote video scripts with the assistance of UCSD graduate student Kristopher Standish; and medical student Ali Ansary, 27, wrote curriculum aimed at medical students.

“We want to prepare physicians and give them the language, the resources they need,” said Ansary, who plans to start his medical residency after graduating from Rocky Vista University next year. He said all medical students should be able to analyze their own DNA.


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