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New Guide Aims to Ease Physicians into Using Genomics in the Clinic


Physicians are busy people. Anyone who's been stuck in a doctor's waiting room while he or she sees to other patients knows just how busy some doctors can get. So maybe it's not such a surprise that many medical professionals are somewhat resistant to the idea of taking time out of their schedules to learn about genetics, genomics, and how they can incorporate fairly recent scientific discoveries into their practices.

There has been much debate about how to turn genomic discoveries into clinical diagnostics and treatments, without forcing physicians to learn the science behind them from the ground up. That's where books like The Busy Physician's Guide to Genetics, Genomics, and Personalized Medicine come in. Written by Ohio State University's Kevin Sweet and Western Carolina University's Ron Michaelis, The Busy Physician's Guide aims to give doctors a background in genomic science that could get them thinking about ways to incorporate genomics into their practices.

This book's strength lies in recognizing that until physicians become comfortable with — and start adopting — genomic tests and treatments into their practices, the concept of personalized medicine will be naught but a catchphrase. "We truly believe that we have entered the age of genomics and personalized medicine, and … these revolutionary advances will ultimately improve health care in all fields of medicine," Sweet and Michaelis write in their preface. "We feel that we are at a time when there is lots of confusion ... regarding the benefits and limitations of the personalized medicine tests that are available today."

True to their intent, the authors have written a book that provides physicians with a "wide-ranging review" of current clinical genomics applications, as well as of some recent research that could inform future tests and treatments. Their writing style is simple without being oversimplified. Beginning with an explanation of genomic variability, and how such variation may explain varying disease susceptibility, all the way to how to make the most of a family history, what types of genetics tests are available and how to interpret the results, Sweet and Michaelis have constructed a reference text that edifies without overwhelming. They provide physicians with places to go to read and learn more about a given topic should they choose to.

For Genome Technology's December 2010/January 2011 issue, I reviewed Brandon Colby's Outsmart Your Genes, a book about medical genetics aimed at patients. At the time, I said that the book, though admirable in its intent to educate patients, became oversimplified, and that the author could have better served his intent by writing a book to get physicians thinking about using genetics in their practices. Now, The Busy Physician's Guide does just that.

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