Genomic Medicine Training - Updates from Sri Lanka

The Human Genetics Unit serves as the national referral centre for human genetics services in Sri Lanka. Over the past four decades, it has risen to the status of a centre of excellence in human genetics and genomics and is dedicated to providing clinical genetics and genomic services in the country including testing, counseling as well as promoting genomic education and research.

Implementing Genomic Medicine in the Clinical Setting Workshop

Participants and resource persons at the Workshop on Implementing Genomic Medicine in the Clinical Setting

Recently, a workshop on “Implementing Genomic Medicine in the Clinical Setting” organized by the Human Genetics Unit was held on 10th February 2020 at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo. It was conducted as a Pre-congress workshop of the week-long Colombo Medical Congress which was held to mark the 150th Anniversary celebrations of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo. The main objective of the workshop was to enable healthcare professionals to develop a basic understanding and knowledge of the core concepts in medical genetics and genomic medicine and their clinical applications in medicine and healthcare. It provided an opportunity for post-graduate trainees in various clinical specialties as well as other healthcare professionals to receive training in understanding the effects of chromosomal abnormalities and genetic variations on human health and disease, patterns of inheritance and risk estimation, selection of appropriate genetic and genome-level diagnostic tests, and interpretation of genetic results. A combination of teaching methods involving didactic teaching as well as interactive case-based discussions using clinical scenarios was adopted to facilitate learning. We plan to conduct similar training workshops on a regular basis in the future to improve the genomic literacy of the healthcare workforce in the country.

Development of Targeted Genomic Education Workshop

Participants and resource persons at the ICBD Pre-conference Workshop on Development of Targeted Genomic Education

Another multi-disciplinary workshop on genetic and genomic education and training for application and translation of genomic advances and new developments in clinical medicine and healthcare titled “Development of Targeted Genomic Education” organized in collaboration with the Global Consortium for Genomic Education (GC4GE) was held in Colombo on 23rd February 2020. The one-day workshop co-chaired by Prof. Dhavendra Kumar and Prof. Vajira H. W. Dissanayake was conducted as a Pre-conference workshop of the 9th International Conference on Birth Defects and Disabilities in the Developing World which held in Colombo from 24th -26th February 2020.

During the first half of the workshop, a global overview of the status as well as current strategies, experiences and challenges of genetic and genomic education in various countries in the sub-region were addressed. The second half of the workshop involved group-based discussions and recommendations for genetic and genomic education training strategies targeted at ‘doctors of the future’, ‘specialist doctors’ and career grade ‘clinical geneticists, genomic physicians, genetic counsellors and specialist genetic nurses’. The workshop was well-attended by both local and international delegates from several countries in the Asia Pacific regions.

Founding of the Human Genetics Society

In January 2020, the Human Genetics Society was founded with the intention of bringing together Alumni of the Human Genetics Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo as a prelude to setting up a national society for Sri Lanka in the future. Its vision is to promote and maintain excellence in the provision and practice of human genetics and genomics services in Sri Lanka through education, training, research, advocacy and multidisciplinary collaboration. One of the main objectives of the Society is to conduct regular training and awareness programs to promote genetics and genomics literacy among all categories of healthcare staff and trainees as well as the general public and to establish collaborative research networks in genetics and genomics both locally and globally. The Society’s website is currently under construction and would be accessible soon (http://www.humangeneticsociety.lk).

Board Certification in Clinical Genetics Program

On a final note, the Post Graduate Institute of Medicine of the University of Colombo recently introduced the 3-year “Board Certification in Clinical Genetics program” for the first time in the country. The inaugural batch was enrolled in March 2020, firstly from those qualifying at the MD (Paediatrics) examination, while awaiting enrollment of others from the MD (Medicine) examination. The National Health Strategic Master Plan for 2016 – 2025 of the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine has identified the need for development of Clinical Genetics services as a national program in Sri Lanka. The main goal of this programme is to train an adequate number of MD qualified Clinical Geneticists to cater for the national need. The programme aims to produce Clinical Geneticists who would be able to diagnose and manage genetic disorders and develop the specialty of Clinical Genetics and the Clinical Genetic services in Sri Lanka to the highest international standards. The Board-Certified Specialists in Clinical Genetics are expected to work in close collaboration with other medical specialists and laboratory scientists and to manage both inpatients and outpatients with genetic disorders across the country.

Compiled by:
Dr. Nirmala D. Sirisena (nirmala@anat.cmb.ac.lk)
Prof. Vajira H.W. Dissanayake (vajira@anat.cmb.ac.lk)
Human Genetics Unit
Faculty of Medicine
University of Colombo
Sri Lanka

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