Medical advances, such as the sequencing of the human genome, are now making it possible for physicians to determine the mechanisms of diseases in each individual patient they encounter. They also enable them to move beyond the treatment of symptoms to attack the molecular mechanisms responsible for a person’s disease. For example, instead of our current organ-based approach for cancer, cancers can now be classified by their molecular profiles. It has become clear that some neurologic diseases have mechanisms in common, and their differences are simply caused by the location of the affected neurons in the brain. For the first time, such mechanistic understanding raises the real possibility of cures and, more importantly, for the prevention of many chronic debilitating diseases. Medications can be selected with the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of an individual in mind.
Medical students today must be prepared for medicine that is founded on an understanding of molecular medicine and practiced as personalized/precision health care. They must also be prepared to integrate new developments into their patient care and education patients/families in this area. Population-based, “one size for all” treatment or prevention programs will be replaced by interventions that are tailored to the patient population most likely to benefit from them. Our goal is to train physicians who practice, research and educate in precision medicine.
The purpose of the Precision Medicine theme is to identify opportunities in the medical student’s experience where they can hone and focus their skills to manage each patient, critically and judicially applying the most advanced diagnostic techniques to understand the basic mechanism of the patient’s health, wellness and illness. The appropriate use of diagnostic tests is emphasized throughout the spectrum of care, including: health risk assessment, disease screening, disease diagnosis, prognosis, therapy selection and therapy monitoring. This environment for learning and practice includes the use of advanced decision-support systems that integrate the most modern biomedical science with the most accurate information about the individual receiving health care.
Will Heise, MD