December 13, 2015

Personalized medicine is topic of new Vanderbilt massive open online course

Enrollment has opened for Case Studies in Personalized Medicine, Vanderbilt’s latest free massive open online course, or MOOC. The six-week course starts Jan. 15.

Enrollment has opened for Case Studies in Personalized Medicine, Vanderbilt’s latest free massive open online course, or MOOC. The six-week course starts Jan. 15.

“The reason that I’m teaching this course is that I think we’ve seen an explosion in our understanding of the concepts of personalized medicine over the last decade,” said course instructor Dan Roden, M.D., assistant vice chancellor for Personalized Medicine, professor of Medicine, Pharmacology and Biomedical Informatics, and William Stokes Professor of Experimental Therapeutics.

Dan Roden (Susan Urmy/Vanderbilt)

Different people may respond differently to the same drug; study of the genetic underpinnings of variable drug response began in the middle of the last century. In 2005 the Food and Drug Administration approved the first pharmacogenetic test for drug response. Increased availability of large biological data sets and of everyday data from the hospital, clinic and beyond promises to advance not only therapeutics, but also diagnostics and disease prevention, leading to a more discriminating and precise medicine. The term “personalized medicine” conjures this trend while also calling up an ancient precept: Doctors should treat the whole patient, steering clear of half measures. Today this means taking account not only of illnesses and medications, but also cultural preferences, health care literacy and, increasingly, genetic information.

“Here at Vanderbilt, we made an institutional commitment to the concept of personalized medicine largely around the genetics of variable drug response, although that vision is now expanding into disease susceptibility as well. We made that commitment about 10 years ago,” Roden said. This commitment grew from VUMC’s expertise in clinical pharmacology and biomedical informatics.

The course will present short primers in genetics and mechanisms underlying variability in drug responses. A series of case studies will be used to illustrate principles of how genetics are being brought to bear on refining diagnoses and on personalizing treatment in rare and common diseases. The ethical and operational issues around how to implement large-scale genomic sequencing in clinical practice will be addressed.

As with Vanderbilt’s other MOOCs, anyone in the world with an Internet connection can take the course for free. The target audience for Roden’s course is physicians who’ve been out of training for five or more years. But everyone is welcome — other health care professionals, students and interested members of the general public.

The time commitment for taking this course is estimated to be two to four hours per week. In addition to video lectures, the course features quizzes, online discussions and a final assignment.

This is the 16th MOOC that Vanderbilt University has offered through the Coursera online higher education platform. Vanderbilt’s participation in Coursera is supported by the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning.

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