Reasearch Awards nomination

Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Genome Medicine and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Personal genome testing in medical education: student experiences with genotyping in the classroom

Simone Lucia Vernez1, Keyan Salari2, Kelly E Ormond12 and Sandra Soo-Jin Lee13*

Author Affiliations

1 Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, 1215 Welch Road, Mod A, Stanford, CA 94305 USA

2 Department of Genetics, Stanford University, Mail Stop-5120, Stanford, CA 94305 USA

3 Department of Pediatrics, Division of Medical Genetics, Stanford University School of Medicine, 300 Pasteur Drive, Boswell Building A097, Stanford, CA 94304 USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Genome Medicine 2013, 5:24  doi:10.1186/gm428

Published: 19 March 2013

Abstract

Background

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) personal genotyping services are beginning to be adopted by educational institutions as pedagogical tools for learning about human genetics. However, there is little known about student reactions to such testing. This study investigated student experiences and attitudes towards DTC personal genome testing.

Methods

Individual interviews were conducted with students who chose to undergo personal genotyping in the context of an elective genetics course. Ten medical and graduate students were interviewed before genotyping occurred, and at 2 weeks and 6 months after receiving their genotype results. Qualitative analysis of interview transcripts assessed the expectations and experiences of students who underwent personal genotyping, how they interpreted and applied their results; how the testing affected the quality of their learning during the course, and what were their perceived needs for support.

Results

Students stated that personal genotyping enhanced their engagement with the course content. Although students expressed skepticism over the clinical utility of some test results, they expressed significant enthusiasm immediately after receiving their personal genetic analysis, and were particularly interested in results such as drug response and carrier testing. However, few reported making behavioral changes or following up on specific results through a healthcare provider. Students did not report utilizing genetic counseling, despite feeling strongly that the 'general public' would need these services. In follow-up interviews, students exhibited poor recall on details of the consent and biobanking agreements, but expressed little regret over their decision to undergo genotyping. Students reported mining their raw genetic data, and conveyed a need for further consultation support in their exploration of genetic variants.

Conclusions

Personal genotyping may improve students' self-reported motivation and engagement with course material. However, consultative support that is different from traditional genetic counseling will be necessary to support students. Before incorporating personal genotyping into coursework, institutions should lead multi-disciplinary discussion to anticipate issues and incorporate teaching mechanisms that engage the ethical, legal, and social implications of personal genotyping, including addressing those found in this study, to go beyond what is offered by commercial providers.