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J Transl Med. 2014 Aug 28;12:238. doi: 10.1186/s12967-014-0238-6.

Genetics and primary care: where are we headed?

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Department of Family Medicine, McGill University, 5858 Côte-des-Neiges, Montréal H3S 1Z1, QC, Canada.


Since first sequencing the human genome in 2003, emerging genetic/genomic technologies have ushered in a revolutionary era of medicine that purports to bridge molecular biology and clinical care. The field of translational medicine is charged with mediating this revolution. Sequencing innovations are far outpacing guidelines intended to ease their practice-based applications, including in primary care. As a result, genomic medicine's full integration in primary care settings especially, has been slow to materialize. Researchers and clinicians alike face substantial challenges in navigating contentious ethical issues raised in translation and implementation, namely preserving the spirit of whole-person approaches to care; maintaining respect for persons and communities; and translating genetic risk into clinical actionability. This commentary therefore explores practical barriers to, and ethical implications of, incorporating genomic technologies in the primary care sector. These ethical challenges are both philosophical and infrastructural. From a primary care perspective, the commentary further reviews the ethical, legal and social implications of the Center for Disease Control's proposed model for assessing the validity and utility of genomic testing and family health history applications. Lastly, the authors provide recommendations for future translational initiatives that aim to maximize the capacities of genomic medicine, without compromising primary care philosophies and foundations of practice.

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