Medical and Graduate Students' Attitudes Towards Personal Genomics
Publication Date:January 25, 2011
Purpose: Medical schools are being approached by direct-to-consumer genotyping companies about genotyping faculty or trainees as a method to "teach" them about the potential implications of genotyping. In thinking about the future incorporation of genotyping into a graduate level genetics course, the purpose of this study was 2-fold: first, to assess knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of students toward personal genomics as it related to themselves as both as customers and future physicians and as it related to consumers at large, and second, to determine the impact of the course (as taught without genotyping) on knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs. Methods: We surveyed first-year medical students and graduate students before and after a core genetics course. Results: After the course, students were less likely to believe that genotyping information would be useful to physicians, patients, or consumers; genotyping would provide information to improve their own personal health; or personal genomic testing services are diagnostic of medical conditions. They were more likely to answer knowledge questions accurately after the course but still had difficulty with clinical interpretation. Despite these changes, a slight majority of students were, and remained, interested in undergoing genotyping themselves. Of note, the number who believed genotyping "would help them understand genetic concepts better than someone else's data" decreased. General curiosity was the most commonly chosen reason for interest in undergoing genotyping, and approximately 50% of respondents expressed concern about confidentiality of results. Conclusions: In conclusion, even without the genotyping process, an educational program about genotyping increased knowledge, particularly about the clinical limitations of genotyping, but student interest in genotyping did not significantly change. Institutions thinking about offering genotyping to their students as part of a learning experience should consider the pros and cons of doing so.