By Kirell Lakhman
Physicians in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's Department of Pathology wants to reverse a trend it has noticed in which pathology as a specialty has fallen behind how "business communities" use genomics in "personalized health care."
In a report in this month's issue of the American Journal of Clinical Pathology entitled "A Call to Action," the group seeks to bring pathology up to speed with the private practice.
In a statement coinciding with the paper, senior author Jeffrey Saffitz call for genomics and personalized medicine "to become a core competency for all Pathology trainees by 2012."
"Genomics and 'medical sequencing' will revolutionize clinical laboratory diagnostics as the foundation for the new era of personalized medicine," according to the paper's abstract. "However, the medical profession lags far behind the technology and business communities in recognizing and preparing for this change.
"Pathologists must take the lead in the application of genomics technologies, including whole-genome sequencing, to laboratory diagnostics and personalized medicine," it adds.
The proposal coincides with a new program at Beth Israel aimed at immersing its pathology residents into the world of DTC genomic services. As I reported last fall, the compulsory program, believed to be the first of its kind in the US, could put the hospital “in the vanguard of preparations to guide patients through the dawning Wild West age of personalized medicine.”
The "genomics and 'medical sequencing' revolution" is emerging as one of the most significant shifts in medical education in decades," Saffitz, who is chief of Pathology at BIDMC and a professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School, said in the statement.
"We feel that it is our responsibility as the diagnostic enablers of clinical medicine to understand genomics information and to serve as primary consultants for physicians and patients who need to know how to interpret and act on this data," he added.
The AJCP report underscores similarly grim findings released last month by the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Society. The 146-page report, entitled Genetics Education and Training of Health Care Professionals, Public Health Providers, and Consumers, warns that "[a]s the clinical utility of genetic tests and services is demonstrated over time, health care professionals will be more likely to see the need to incorporate genetics and genomics into their practice."
Also chiming in last week was the Association for Molecular Pathology. While "commend[ing] SACGHS for recognizing the importance of professional and public education and training in genetics and addressing the needs in this area," AMP stressed that the report "overlooks the contribution of pathologists and non-physician laboratory directors as providers of health care in genetics and in genetic training and education."
According to its statement, AMP said "molecular pathology professionals who perform and interpret genetic tests play a key role in the education of clinicians and consumers in the best use and interpretation of genetic tests.
“We are concerned that neither AMP nor other pathology or laboratory organizations were included in the list of health care professional organizations surveyed for the [SACGHS] draft report, nor were these essential groups of health care professionals listed as a key provider of genetic services or of genetic education.”
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