To increase genetics literacy in health care professionals and thereby enhance quality of care in order to optimize the health and well-being of Canadians.
Our understanding of the contribution of genetics to ill-health and disease is growing exponentially, providing many examples of the use of genetics knowledge and genetic tests in mainstream healthcare. These scientific and technological advances have changed the needs of practitioners, patients and the public. The growing number of genetic tests places increased demands on practitioners to provide up-to-date and relevant information to patients. While regional genetics centres provide genetic counselling and education, a single comprehensive genetics institute or knowledge management centre does not exist in Canada.
In early 2011, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Department of Genetics made a commitment to enhance the genetics literacy of healthcare providers across Ontario by funding the Genetics Education Canada – Knowledge Organization (GEC-KO). GEC-KO will enable development, collection, dissemination and evaluation of genetics educational materials. A supporting infrastructure for genetics education will facilitate translation of research. Most importantly, it will, for the first time in Canada, provide a concerted effort to build genetics competencies in primary care, specialty medicine, and other health professions.
Former chief of Genetics at CHEO, Dr. Judith Allanson, and Toronto family physician, Dr. June Carroll are the co-founders and co-directors of GEC-KO. Shawna Morrison, board certified genetic counsellor, is the program manager.
In the short time since GEC-KO was conceived, a multidisciplinary advisory board has been assembled representing clinical and laboratory genetics specialists, knowledge translation and epidemiology experts, family physicians, and representatives from northern and rural communities in addition to hospital administration.
- Provide leadership in genetics education
- Raise the awareness of genetics in clinical practice
- Identify the genetics knowledge, skills and attitudes useful for clinical roles
- Develop a framework for competencies in genetics
- First priority to be primary care genetics competencies†
- Incorporate genetics competencies into continuing professional development for health professionals
- Incorporate genetics competencies into the curricula for postgraduate training of health professionals
- Incorporate genetics competencies into the curricula for undergraduate health professionals
- Identify and develop genetics educational resources appropriate to the needs of health professionals (and their teachers)
- Disseminate educational resources and learning from this educational program
- Evaluate educational materials, initiatives and knowledge translation strategies
*Adapted from: Aims of the UK NHS National Genetics Education and Development Centre (Farndon PA, Bennett C. Genetics Education for Health Professionals: Strategies and Outcomes from a National Initiative in the United Kingdom. J Genet Counsel 2008;17: 161-9.)
† First priority for all educational initiatives will be primary care, with resources directed mainly to practicing health professionals. Later initiatives will involve trainees, students and other health professionals
Judith E. Allanson, MB ChB, FRCP, FRCPC, FCCMG, is the Co-director of GEC-KO. She is a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Ottawa and retired Clinical Geneticist at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. She received her MB ChB degree from Liverpool Medical School and completed her Fellowship in Medical Genetics at the University of British Columbia. She is co-editor of a book on management of common genetic syndromes.
June C. Carroll, MD, CCFP, FCFP, is the Co-director of GEC-KO. She holds the Sydney G. Frankfort Chair in Family Medicine and is a Professor and Clinician Scientist in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at University of Toronto. She practices family medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. Dr. Carroll is a member of the Clinical Expert Panel on the Ontario Breast Screening Program expansion to women at high risk for breast cancer and the Prenatal Screening Subcommittee of the Ontario Provincial Maternal-Child Screening Committee.
Shawna Morrison, MS, CGC, is the manager of GEC-KO. She is a board certified genetic counsellor at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa. She received her MS in genetic counselling at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Her clinical role at CHEO involves seeing patients for prenatal genetic indications and hereditary hemochromatosis referrals.
GEC-KO is a not-for-profit organization. The efforts of GEC-KO are supported by funding from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) with in-kind support from Mount Sinai Hospital, Sinai Health Systems in Ontario, Canada.