By Jordanna Joaquina
Jordanna is Director of Genetics and Co-Founder of AccessDNA.com, the first comprehensive online resource for information about hundreds of genetic conditions, topics, tests and Direct-to-Consumer providers. She is a board-certified genetic counselor with a clinical background in multiple disciplines of genetics. Read her complete bio here.
At the Consumer Genetics Conference last week in Boston, MA, most of the genetic “thought leaders” agreed that the technology was advancing quicker than the science. However, we all know that the science will eventually catch up and sooner than we think, we will have made incredible strides. Not only will we identify and validate the genetic variables of disease, but also how they interact with each other, and with non-genetic factors, to affect disease risk and treatment.
And then what? What happens when personalized medicine is not just a crazy, pie-in-the-sky pipedream made up by forward-thinking, eccentric scientists, but a reality, and the new, “right way” to approach and practice medicine?
In this brave new world of personalized medicine, I imagine that every person will have their own personal genetic counselor. Along with primary care physicians or specialists, this new class of genetic counselors will help assess, interpret and guide patients through their risk factors, both genetic and non-genetic.
But if personalized medicine is realized tomorrow, little of us would be prepared to take on this important role – the “wholistic,” as I call it, genetic counselor who specializes in complex disease. Most of us have never even seen whole genome scanning nor whole genome sequencing results, nevermind being asked or expected to interpret them.
So, as genetic counselors, what can/should we do? How do we position ourselves as vital members of the personalized medicine team? How do we better educate and train ourselves and future genetic counselors in the genetics of complex disease as well as emerging genetic technologies? How do we participate in whole genome research, thought groups, and policy-making bodies? How do we continue to advocate for the proper use of genetic information and promote access to genetic services?
How do we begin to see our field and ourselves as one of the most important elements of health care in the next century?