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Student Physician, Sequence Thyself

Some students at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York will have the chance to sequence themselves after the school announced on Monday that it is launching a course that allows students to sequence, analyze, and interpret their own complete genome.

The elective course, called "Practical Analysis of Your Personal Genome," also gives students the option to sequence an anonymous reference genome, if the prospects of knowing the deep dark secrets hidden away in their own genes make them shudder.

There are about 20 students in the course, Mount Sinai says.

While sequencing has been heralded as a potentially groundbreaking technology that may open new diagnosis and treatment methods for physicians, many have also warned that in spite of all the data resulting from sequencing, the medical community is ill-equipped to make sense of all the information.

This course, Mount Sinai says, is designed to bridge that gulf.

"For precision medicine to become a routine in the medical clinic, we need to train the next generation of physicians to harness sequencing-driven medical genetics," says Dennis Charney, the dean of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in a statement. "We believe that an approach tailored to each individual patient's diagnosis and treatment, informed by genomic information, will provide dramatic improvements in the quality of care."

The school will conduct a questionnaire-based study to evaluate how much more knowledge the guinea pigs — uh, we mean students — who analyzed their own genome demonstrated. They also will be asked about the utility of whole-genome sequencing and the impact on psychological well-being.

Mount Sinai's announcement follows one from the University of Miami a few weeks ago that it is offering a master's degree in genomic medicine. That program seeks to teach future doctors to interpret and apply genomic information in the diagnosis and treatment of patients, as Daily Scan's sister publication Pharmacogenomics Reporter recently reported. Additionally, Pharmacogenomics Reporter wrote in 2010 about a similar, genotyping-based elective course at Stanford University.