AUG 21, 2014 10:45 AM PDT

The Role of Genetic Counselors in the Implementation of Personalized Genomic Medicine

  • Assistant Director, University of Iowa - Iowa Institute for Human Genetics

      Colleen Campbell, PhD, MS, CGC is the Assistant Director of the Iowa Institute of Human Genetics and an Associate in the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. Dr. Campbell received her M.S. in human genetics at Sarah Lawrence College. She is an American Board of Genetic Counseling board certified genetic counselor.  Dr. Campbell received her PhD in human genetics at the University of Iowa in 2012 and completed her post-doctoral training in Otolaryngology at the University of Iowa. In 2012 she co-founded the Iowa Institute of Human Genetics, which is responsible for implementing personalized genomic medicine in the state of Iowa.  Dr. Campbell oversees the Iowa Institute of Human Genetics clinical exome sequencing test and is the Director of the Iowa Institute of Human Genetics Education Division.  Her interests include implementation of exome and genomic testing in the clinical setting, including patient choice of secondary findings. Dr. Campbell is also interested promoting genetic counseling within the state and is the current chair of the NSGC Personalized Medicine Special Interest Group Whole Genome/Whole Exome Sequencing Workgroup, and the incoming Committee Vice Chair for 2015 of the National Society of Genetic Counselors Access Committee.


    For personalized genomic medicine (PGM) to be readily adopted into clinical practice, there is a need for a multidisciplinary team, and a need to educate health care professionals and the general public about genomics. The Iowa Institute of Human Genetics (IIHG) currently offers several PGM tests including a pharmacogenomic test for clopidogrel and clinical whole exome sequencing. Through our experience we have learned there are many challenges to implementing an institutional genomic medicine program such as; delivery of accurate and timely genomic test results in a cost-effective and high-throughput manner; rapid ways to analyze and store clinical genomic data, a reliable variant database for data interpretation; integration of genetic results in the electronic medical record; and limited insurance reimbursement of genomic testing. In addition, the fields of genetics and genomics are changing at such a rapid pace, and most practicing health care providers did not have this information as part of their training.
    Genetic counselors are members of the health care team with specialized training in medical genetics and counseling who communicate scientific information in plain language, provide risk assessment, education, and support to patients with genetic conditions and their families. With these skills, genetic counselors are poised to take an active role in the incorporation of genomic medicine into non-genetics specialties, and participate in the development of solutions to the challenges facing PGM. They can also promote public awareness and engagement in genomics, and work with regulatory, funding, and legislative organizations to educate members of these groups about the impact and use of PGM to aid in increased reimbursement of genomic testing. In this presentation, the current state of PGM in Iowa will be discussed along with the areas in which genetic counselors can aid in the implementation of institutional personalized genomic medicine programs.

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