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/genomics knowledge and 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/genomics literacy of healthcare providers across Ontario by funding the Genetics Education Canada – Knowledge Organization (GEC-KO). GEC-KO is developing, collecting, disseminating and evaluating genetics/genomics educational resources for Canadian and international use. This supporting infrastructure for genetics and genomics education facilitates translation of research. Most importantly, for the first time in Canada, it provides a concerted effort to build genetics/genomics 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. Safa Yusuf, board certified genetic counsellor, is the interim program manager.
GEC-KO has a multidisciplinary advisory board with representatives from clinical and laboratory genetics, knowledge translation and epidemiology, family medicine, northern and rural communities and hospital administration.
- Provide leadership in genetics/genomics education
- Raise the awareness of genetics and genomics in clinical practice
- Identify the genetics/genomics knowledge, skills and attitudes useful for clinical roles
- Incorporate genetics/genomics competencies into continuing professional development for health professionals
- Incorporate genetics/genomics competencies into the curricula for postgraduate training of health professionals
- Incorporate genetics/genomics competencies into the curricula for undergraduate health professionals
- Identify and develop genetics /genomics 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.)
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 the Ray D. Wolfe Department of Family Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, Sinai Health System, in Toronto. Dr. Carroll is the Vice-Chair of the Ontario Genetics Advisory Committee, Health Quality Ontario, member of the Consultation and Advisory Group for Genetics for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Chair of the Prenatal Screening Ontario Program Education Task Force.
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.
Safa Yusuf, MS, CGC, is the interim manager of GEC-KO. She is a board certified genetic counsellor at CHEO in Ottawa. She received her MS in genetic counselling at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. In her clinical role at CHEO, she sees patients who are at risk of having a hereditary cancer syndrome.
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.