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See One, Do One, Teach One

In addition to Grey's Anatomy or Scrubs-style antics, medical school and medical training is known for its focus on teaching, among other topics, anatomy through the dissection of cadavers. In Science Translational Medicine this week, Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and a professor at the Scripps Research Institute, argues that medical students also need to thoroughly dissect the human genome, preferably their own.

"Only when opportunities for students to annotate and decipher their own genomes become widely available will medical schools create a new generation of physicians fully capable of rendering genomic medicine for their patients," Topol says.

Whole-genome sequencing is increasingly showing its mettle as a clinical tool, Topol says, and physicians need to be prepared for how it can be used to chart the course of cancer treatments, uncover possible drug reactions, determine disease susceptibilities, and identify pathogens.

As its cost comes down, sequencing becomes not only more affordable for patients, but also for medical training programs, he says. "Indeed, WGS is approaching a level of affordability that represents only a tiny fraction of the average medical school’s tuition and is minuscule when compared with the cost of acquisition, storage, and maintenance of cadavers for anatomical dissection," he adds.