What do genomics mean for the individual patient?

The introduction of widespread genomic testing as a standard in medicine has raised some concern about communication and training.

A viewpoint article in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine called for better training for medical students and residents in patient-centered care and communication to enhance personalized care, what the article calls "personomics." These skills, the article asserts, are "just as important as teaching the molecular and genetic basis of health and illness."

"Individuals are not only distinguished by their biological variability; they also differ greatly in terms of how disease affects their lives. People have different personalities, resilience and resources that influence how they will adapt to illness, so the same disease can alter one individual's personal and family life completely and not affect that of another person much at all," wrote author Roy C. Ziegelstein, MD, a professor of medicine at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Genomics are an important component of more precise medicine and diagnosis, but it must be balanced with still seeing the patient as a whole, Dr. Ziegelstein wrote. Training medical students to take the individual elements of the person into account just as much as the genomic findings will produce care that treats the person as much as it treats the disease, he wrote.

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