Family physicians’ perspectives on genetics and the human genome project


  • Michael D. Fetters,

    1. Department of Family Medicine, Japanese Family Health Program, Values in Bioethics Research Program, University of Michigan Medical Center, University of Michigan,
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  • David J. Doukas,

    1. Department of Family Medicine, Values in Bioethics Research Program, The Program in Society and Medicine, University of Michigan, MI,
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  • K. Luan Dinh Phan

    1. Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA
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Corresponding author: Michael D. Fetters, MD, MPH, MA, Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan, 1018 Fuller Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0708, USA. Tel: +1-734-998-7120, ext. 341; fax: +1-734-998-7335; e-mail:


The objective of the study was to determine family physicians’ attitudes and beliefs about human genetics research and the human genome project (HGP). The design of the study involved qualitative, semi-structured interviews. Primary variables of interest included family physicians’ training; their attitudes about the HGP; requests for genetics counseling; and their approaches to counseling requests. The setting was a medium-sized, Midwest, US city. The participants were 16 university-affiliated, community-based family physicians. For contents analysis, we used a coding scheme to identify illustrative themes and subthemes. While most of the family physicians reported familiarity with genetics and the HGP, and experiences with counseling requests, nearly all (15) reported little training in genetics counseling. Four major themes were identified: 1) impact on clinical care; 2) educational issues relevant to genetics and the HGP; 3) ethical concerns; and 4) family medicine responsibilities. These family physicians do not perceive genetics as having a substantial impact on their practice, but do expect major clinical changes in the future. Many feel there have been inadequate educational opportunities to learn about genetics, and some indicate reluctance to invest in self-education until genetic problems become more clinically relevant. These practitioners envision a role for family medicine the specialty to shape priorities in genetics research.