University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Genetics and Genomics in Clinical Practice: The Views of Wisconsin Physicians

Michael P. McCauley, PhD; Rebecca K. Marcus, MD; Kimberly A. Strong, PhD; Alexis M. Visotcky, MS; Mary E. Shimoyama, PhD; Arthur R. Derse, MD, JD

WMJ. 2019;118(1):69-74.

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Introduction: Decreasing costs and increased availability of genetic testing and genome sequencing mean many physicians will consider using these services over the next few years. Despite this promising future, some argue the present roadmap for translating genetics and genomics into routine clinical practice is unclear.

Objective: We conducted a pilot study to explore Wisconsin physicians’ views, practices and educational desires regarding genetic and genomic testing.

Methods: Our study consists of an Internet survey (n=155) conducted in August and September 2015 and follow-up phone interviews with a portion of survey participants. Physicians of all specialties were invited to participate. Variables measured include physicians’ general knowledge and experience regarding genetic and genomic testing, attitudes and perceptions toward these tests, testing intentions, and educational desires. Sociodemographic variables included gender, age, and medical specialty.

Results: In our exploratory survey of Wisconsin physicians, adult primary care providers (PCPs) lagged behind other providers in terms of familiarity and experience with genetic and genomic testing. PCPs in our sample were less likely than other physicians to feel their training in genetics and genomics is adequate. Physicians younger than 50 were more likely than older colleagues to feel their training is adequate.

Conclusions: Our exploratory study suggests a gap in physician education and understanding regarding genomic testing, which is fast becoming part of personalized medical care. Future studies with larger samples should examine ways for physicians to close this gap, with special focus on the needs of PCPs.

Author Affiliations: Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis (McCauley, Marcus, Visotcky, Shimoyama, Derse); MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Tex (Marcus); HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Huntsville, Ala (Strong).
Corresponding Author: Michael P. McCauley, PhD, 8701 Watertown Plank Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53226; phone 414.955.8498; e-mail
Acknowledgments: The authors gratefully acknowledge the support provided by Kris Tym at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Medical Society staff.
Funding/Support: This study was funded in whole by the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Research and Education Program Fund, a component of the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin endowment at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
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