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Beth Israel Deaconess Funded for Pathologist Genomics Training Program

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston will use a five-year, $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to expand an effort to train pathologists in ways to better understand and use genomic information.

BIDMC will use the funding to expand a program it developed with support from the American Society for Clinical Pathology that will help pathologists apply genomics by consulting with physicians and patients and helping them make informed decisions.

The medical center said on Friday that the initiative was created to address the concern that patients are bringing the results of consumer genetic tests, particularly those linked to disease risks, into meetings with physicians who may not be well informed about these tests, or how their results may be applied in clinical practice.

"Although the completion of the Human Genome Project nearly a decade ago ushered in a new era of personalized medicine, when it comes to genomic testing and applications of this new data, the medical profession has lagged behind the business and technology communities in terms of preparation," Richard Haspel, an assistant professor at BIDMC and Harvard Medical School, said in a statement.

"As a result, while genetic testing kits are already available to consumers, by and large, physicians are not equipped to provide patients with guidance and advice to help them to interpret results," Haspel added.

Haspel thinks that pathologists may offer a solution to this problem, and may serve as the "gatekeepers" of genomic medicine, BIDMC said.

In 2009, BIDMC launched a genomic medicine training program for pathologists, and the next year it created the Training Residents in Genomics (TRIG) Working Group, which is chaired by Haspel and includes experts in molecular pathology, genetic counseling, and medical education.

The TRIG Working Group created lectures with accompanying slide shows to support the resident training program, has made presentations at major pathology and genetics meetings, and has published a paper outlining an approach to teaching health professionals about genomic medicine.

Now, Haspel and his collaborators will use the new NIH funding to expand the training program, create online modules and other resources, and test the efficacy of four residency programs.

ASCP is supporting the effort by providing educational, administrative, and technical support, and it has added an annual survey to its Resident in-Service Examination for pathology to test the genomics knowledge of pathology residents.

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