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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 4, 2008 | Vol. 37 No. 20
Genetics in Primary Care Pediatrics: Act Now, JH Leaders Urge

By Katerina Pesheva
Johns Hopkins Medicine

In an editorial in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Johns Hopkins pediatric experts are calling on pediatricians, policy-makers and medical educators to begin planning "yesterday" for integrating genetics, genomics and genetic testing into the everyday practices of primary care and routine pediatrics.

"The thinking period is over, and we're sounding the alarm not only for pediatricians and physicians but for scientists, educators and policy-makers," said Tina Cheng, an author of the commentary and director of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. "The only way to move ahead is [with] coordination among and between all the groups involved."

"There needs to be a shift in the mindset and in the way primary-care pediatricians view themselves," said George Dover, director of the center. "We should take genetics out of the realm of the rare and exotic and put it right where it can have the most impact: in primary care pediatrics."

Among the group's recommendations are development of universal guidelines for use of genetic testing in primary-care practice and a federal law that would make it illegal for insurance companies to use genetic test results as grounds for denying coverage and payment.

As big business is already moving into the arena of genetic testing and starting to target consumers, it is critical that policy-makers, physicians and educators get together to devise strategies to harness the genetic revolution, the Johns Hopkins team says.

Medicine and, indeed, society as a whole cannot remain in reactive mode, the authors say, but instead it needs to figure out ways to streamline and regulate what is happening before it mushrooms out of control.

"This is not a molecule-to-man fantasy or science fiction; this is happening now. We need to be on the forefront of implementing these changes," said Ronald Cohn, of Johns Hopkins' McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine.


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