Sanford Imagenetics Celebrates a Year of Education, Clinical Innovation, and Research
January marked the one-year anniversary of Sanford’s sweeping genomics initiative called Imagenetics. Last year, Imagenetics became the first program in the nation to fully integrate genetics and genomic medicine into primary care for all adults. We asked Dr. Gene Hoyme, former president of Sanford Research and now it’s Chief of Genetics and Genomics, for an update on the three primary components of Imagenetics: Education, Clinical Innovation and Research.
MED: How has Imagenetics advanced education this past year?
Dr. H: There are two components to education. The first is educating adult primary care providers about genomic medicine and how to incorporate it into their practices. We designed a 21 hour course called “Essentials of Genomic Medicine” which each of our general internists took and felt was valuable.
The second thing is that in order to train the future workforce in genomic medicine, we had two programs that we felt we needed to create. The first is a Master’s program in genetic counseling, which we have developed jointly with Augustana. That program has progressed very quickly.
We have also identified at least one remote teaching site. We are very close to signing an agreement with a huge West Coast university. You need a certain clinical volume in order to study genetics and genomics. We can train about 5 genetic counselors a year between Fargo and Sioux Falls. If we want to have a class of ten or 12, we need a second site.
We’ve probably had two hundred inquiries about this program.
MED: How have you innovated on the clinical side?
Dr. H: We have rolled out testing for drugs based on the genomic background of the individual. We plan to have pharmacogenetics testing available for twenty medications over the next year. There are published guidelines which have been vetted nationally and those are the medications we are going to start with. As the science grows, we’ll add more medications to that list.
We have also hired genetic counselors to be imbedded within our general medicine clinics and we are almost complete with our recruitment of those people. Combined with the pharmacogenetics and the increased knowledge of the internists, people who receive their primary care at one of these clinics will find that there is ready availability of genetic counseling within the clinic. S
MED: And what about research?
Dr. H: In terms of the research, I think that one of the questions that people have is what is the evidence that this approach to medicine really changes outcomes and at what cost?
We have done a preliminary survey of our patients. One result was that two thirds of patients with no education about genetics, when asked if they would want to get genetic testing done if it would improve their healthcare, said yes. For cancer, it was 100 percent. So I think there is great acceptance of this idea.
MED: Imagenetics will soon its own building near the med school building in Sioux Falls. What will this mean for the program?
Dr. H: That facility will bring together all the players. Diagnostic laboratories in genetics, adult internal medicine practices, genetic counselors, and the genetics Master’s program will be housed there. It’s meant to be an educational, clinical, and research building. There is nothing like this in the whole country where we have brought this into primary care. We hope there will be synergy there which will lead to innovation in research.
Note: Groundbreaking for the new building is expected this summer.