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The Acquisition of Clinical Genetics Knowledge in Medical Students

Soller, Haley B. (2022) The Acquisition of Clinical Genetics Knowledge in Medical Students. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Non-genetic physicians report feeling uncomfortable and unprepared to order genetic testing, interpret test results, and counsel patients on genomic information (Arora et al., 2016). The purpose of this study was to learn about the acquisition of genetic knowledge in medical students. A survey was distributed to first year medical students at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine before and after they completed a required Human Genetics course. The survey asked the students to rank their knowledge of clinical genetic concepts, answer knowledge multiple choice and true/false questions, as well as provide information about previous experiences and exposures to genetic information.
The survey was distributed to 158 first-year medical students. Twenty-four participants responded to the pre-course survey (a response rate of 15.2%). Fourteen participants responded to the post-course survey (a response rate of 8.9%). A Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test was performed on the responses of the 12 participants who completed the pre-course and post-course survey to provide information on how the participants’ perceived and actual knowledge changed from the pre-course survey to the post-course survey. The results indicated a statically significant (p=0.003) increase in average test scores.
Overall, the participants reported feeling more confident in their knowledge after completing the Human Genetics course. However, responses suggested that after completion of the course, participants still struggled to accurately interpret certain clinical situations and genetic test results. Participants had difficulty recognizing which family member would be most informative to test first given a family history of cancer, which genetic test to order, how to disclose a prenatal genetic finding, and the clinical significance of a variant of uncertain significance.
The results of the study indicate a need for educational and policy changes. While one genetic course can improve the knowledge of students, it may not be sufficient to prepare students for clinical genetic scenarios, especially when students lack experience applying genetic knowledge throughout their medical education. This study is relevant to public health because non-genetic providers require a certain level of genetic knowledge to provide appropriate patient care.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Soller, Haley B.
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorGrubs, Robinrgrubs@pitt.edurgrubs
Committee MemberMassart, Mylyndambm66@pitt.edumbm66
Committee MemberShaffer, Johnjohn.r.shaffer@pitt.edujohn.r.shaffer
Committee MemberMunro, Christinechm243@pitt.educhm243
Date: 27 April 2022
Defense Date: 8 April 2022
Approval Date: 12 May 2022
Submission Date: 27 April 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 130
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Graduate School of Public Health > Genetic Counseling
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: N/A
Date Deposited: 12 May 2022 14:29
Last Modified: 12 May 2022 14:29


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