Mountain View, CA - August 6, 2012 - El Camino Hospital's debut genomics class, entitled "Medicine's Future: Genomics for Practicing Doctors," concluded last month, with 20 physicians graduating from the newly launched program.
The course, which was held monthly from October 18, 2011 to July 10, 2012, is the hospital's first full-length lecture series designed to educate physicians about the applications of genomic discoveries in everyday medicine. Based on the success of the first course, El Camino Hospital is offering a second workshop series, scheduled to begin September 24.
The importance of bringing genomics closer to the bedside cannot be overstated. Doctors educated in genomics will be able to offer their patients the most up-to-date and relevant genetic testing and genetic counseling so that patients can make highly informed decisions about their health. For example, a woman with a family history of breast cancer can be advised as to whether genetic testing is appropriate.
"We looked all around the country for a course our physicians could attend, but we just couldn't find anything that focused on the practical aspects of genomics," explains Lynn Dowling, executive director of the Genomic Medicine Institute at El Camino Hospital. "So, we created our own."
An initial course outline was developed in 2011 by a committee of El Camino Hospital physicians. The hospital then brought in experts from two national associations - the Genetic Alliance and the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics – to develop the curriculum. Robert Nussbaum, MD, Professor, Department of Medicine, and Chief, Division of Medical Genetics at the University of California, San Francisco, was recruited to serve as facilitator for the four foundational modules of the program.
"The response from our physicians has been terrific. Dozens of our doctors attended the program, and 20 received certificates for completing all the foundational courses and three or more condition-specific courses," notes Dowling. Due to its success on the Mountain View campus, the course will be offered again on the hospital's Los Gatos campus this fall. The American Medical Association also has signed on for 2012-2013 in support of the hospital's curriculum.
"This course really opened our eyes to what will be coming in the next three to four years," says Jerry Manoukian, MD, one of the El Camino Hospital physicians who served on the program committee. "We learned how to use different categories of genetic tests in various situations, and learned how to determine when a test was appropriate or not for a specific patient."
Adds Katherine Sutherland, MD, of the Women Physicians GYN Medical Group: "This course taught us how to identify red flags in family histories and how to act upon them."
Each workshop carried two hours of Continuing Medical Education credit and was led by both a subject expert and an El Camino Hospital physician. In addition to four foundational courses, the course included six modules covering a range of condition-specific topics in areas such as cancer, heart disease, prenatal testing and mental health disorders. Instructors discussed how to identify patients at risk of a genetic condition, how and when to order genetic tests, how to interpret test results, how to determine costs and insurance coverage, how to best use genetic counselors, and how to make appropriate referrals.
The committee credits the course's success to the fact that instructors are both content experts and education specialists who facilitate "true learning" through the use of interactive tools (e.g. patient videos, audience response, large group case discussions and small group case discussions).
Over the years, the cost of genetic sequencing has decreased dramatically, bringing genomics closer to the bedside than ever before. However, experts point out that only those institutions that have doctors educated in genomics will be able to take full advantage of the new technology.
Physicians who are interested in enrolling in future classes can contact the Genomic Institute at 650-962-4577.