Medical Students' Perspectives on Personal Genomics

With the advent of direct-to-consumer based genotyping companies, many medical schools are being approached about the potential to use personal genotyping on faculty or trainees as a method to “teach” them about the potential implications of genotyping. After an enthusiastic debate about such practice at our medical school, we surveyed first-year medical students about their beliefs, attitudes and knowledge about personal genomics.

The same survey was administered before and after completion of instruction in the core Human Genetics course. Approximately eight hours of the course were devoted to covering genotyping and whole genome sequencing, and this instruction included an analysis of the information and results offered by direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing companies.

The survey itself was divided into three sections. Section One assessed respondents’ beliefs and attitudes toward the utility of genome wide association studies. Section Two assessed the beliefs and attitudes of respondents toward use of DTC genetic testing, confidentiality of results, and physician and genetic counselor involvement. Section Three contained three scenarios designed to test respondents’ knowledge and interpretation of DTC genetic testing results.

To ensure the anonymity of respondents, demographic information was not collected, and survey data were viewed and analyzed only in summary form. Data were then compared between the pre-course and post-course surveys to discern changes in beliefs, attitudes and knowledge about genotyping information and DTC genetic testing services.

Project Directors and Members

Kelly Ormond, MS, CGC
Director of the MS in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling
Associate Professor, Department of Genetics

Louanne Hudgins, MD, FACMG
Professor and Acting Chief, Division of Medical Genetics, Dept. of Pediatrics
Director of Perinatal Genetics, Lucille Packard Childrens Hospital

Jennifer Ladd
CIRGE Program Manager

David Magnus, PhD
SCBE Director
Thomas A. Raffin Professor in Medicine and Biomedical Ethics

Hank Greely, JD
Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law and, Professor, by courtesy, of Genetics

Mildred Cho, PhD
SCBE Associate Director
Associate Professor (Research) of Pediatrics