a his & hers weblog of worlds apart
Where do we belong?
Earlier this month the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) hosted an open forum panel discussion entitled “Personalized Medicine: Are we Ready?” The 7 person panel was made up of a diverse group of scientists, physicians and a couple of direct-to-consumer company representatives. In addition, Cheryl Shuman, a genetic counsellor and the director of the University of Toronto Genetic Counselling program was included. Not only did I anticipate an interesting debate, but I was looking forward to hearing how the GC perspective might stand out against the rest.
In the end, I was disappointed. The debate quickly descended into (as it inevitably does) the scientists vs. the capitalists. The overall sentiment of the evening was (as it always is) that 1) personalized medicine is “not yet ready for prime time” and 2) DTC companies are selling tests that lack clinical validity and utility.
I was left wondering how genetic counsellors might fit into the world of personalized medicine. Interestingly, Gene Sherpas has been pondering the same thing. And according to him, the outlook is bleak. He cites GC’s lack of medical training as a major barrier, and believes that training nurses in genetics is a more feasible option. He also chastises GCs for providing medical advice without physician supervision. As a young genetic counsellor with a strong interest in personal genomics, I find these comments disturbing. Some of my thoughts on the issue: