Preparing Health Professionals for Individualized Medicine

Joseph D McInerney; Emily Edelman; Therese Nissen; Kate Reed; Joan A Scott


Personalized Medicine. 2012;9(5):529-537. 

In This Article


Although we have primarily focused on the education of clinicians, the healthcare system in the USA and elsewhere comprises a diverse collection of other professionals who influence the practice of medicine – an extended community of stakeholders that includes, for example, policy makers, insurance companies, consumers and the pharmaceutical industry. Diversity of expertise and perspectives generally is beneficial in any complex system, serving as a hedge against rigidity and resting inertia. Too often, however, diversity of views in the US healthcare system manifests itself as fractionation, with powerful competing interests dominating the landscape in ways that are not always in the best interests of personal and public health. This fractionation extends even to professional societies in medicine, nursing and other clinical entities, each of which resists adoption of educational programs developed by or for other disciplines and deems it necessary instead to develop its own approach. This situation speaks to the need for an unbiased entity that can help diverse stakeholders focus on the same general educational objectives with respect to genomic medicine.

Notwithstanding the growing interest in translational research in the USA, funding agencies do not see education as central to that task and rarely provide dedicated support for the development of educational programs of for educational research that can provide insights into the most effective ways to educate health professionals about advances in biomedicine. This situation causes organizations such as NCHPEG to frame their interests in other ways if there is any hope to secure funding. Those involved in genomics education need to help policy makers reframe the issue so that education is recognized as a central aspect of translation.

The BOI is correct that genomic medicine "is not a niche". Perhaps the better ecological metaphor for this emerging, "major step-change in medical practice and public health"[101] is genomic medicine as healthcare's keystone species: the entity that holds all else together through the unifying view of health and disease that is at the heart of thinking genetically.[18,19] Seen through that lens, genomic medicine provides an opportunity to mitigate fractionation at all levels. We should not squander that opportunity.