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Genet Med. 2009 Apr;11(4):279-86. doi: 10.1097/GIM.0b013e318195aaf4.

Physicians' attitudes toward race, genetics, and clinical medicine.

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  • 1Social and Behavioral Research Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.



This qualitative study explored black and white general internists' attitudes about the relevance of race in clinical care; views of the relationships among race, genetics, and disease; and expectations about the future of genetics and health.


We conducted 10 racially concordant focus groups of primary care physicians in five metropolitan areas in the United States. Ninety board certified or eligible general internists (50 self-identified whites and 40 self-identified blacks) participated in the study. Analysis included a two-stage independent review and adjudication process.


Both black and white physicians concluded that the race of the patient is medically relevant but did not agree upon why race is important in clinical decisions. They were reticent to make connections among race, genetics, and disease and asserted that genetics has a limited role in explaining racial differences in health. However, they were enthusiastic about the future of genomic medicine, believing that the main benefit will be the potential to improve the efficacy of commonly used drugs.


Understanding the similarities and differences between black and white physicians' attitudes and beliefs about race, health and genetics is important for the translation of genomics to clinical care.

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