Background The global development and advancement of genomic medicine in the recent decade has accelerated the implementation of Personalized Medicine (PM), Pharmacogenomics (PG) and Genetic Testing (GT) into clinical practice. The rapid emergence of diverse genetic services has marked the global transition to the genomic era. Our study aims at investigating the perception of Hong Kong (HK) undergraduates on PM, PG and GT.
Objectives To investigate the perception of Hong Kong undergraduates on Personalized Medicine, Pharmacogenomics and Genetic Testing
Methods By utilizing an online questionnaire based on a study published by Mahmutovic et al., this cross-sectional study was performed on 202 undergraduates of different study curriculum in the University of Hong Kong. Undergraduates’ perception on three aspects were investigated – general perception on PM, PG and GT; PM and PG education; and ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of GT. The primary outcome was the evaluation of undergraduates’ perception on the above three aspects; and the secondary outcome was comparison of perception after stratification of undergraduates into medically and non-medically-related curriculum. Fisher’s exact test and Chi Square Test were performed for comparison of categorical responses, where the level of significance was set at p < 0.05.
Results Our results showed that 80% of undergraduates valued PM as a promising healthcare model with 66% indicating awareness of personal genome testing companies. Despite this high awareness and interest, 60% of undergraduates rated their genetic knowledge as ‘School Biology’ level or below and only 33% would consider ordering a PG test for themselves. In contrast, 76% of undergraduates considered undergoing a genetic test, with 77% willing to have lifestyle modifications upon knowing their genetic risk of a disease. In terms of PM and PG education, slightly more than half of medically-related curriculum undergraduates perceived that their curriculum was well-designed for learning PG (52%) and PG was important in their study (56%); and only 16% of these undergraduates would consider embarking on future education on PM. Regarding ELSI, 75% of undergraduates were aware of ethical issues of GT in general and they were more concerned about ‘Patient Privacy’ (80%) and ‘Data Confidentiality’ (68%). Upon receiving an unfavorable result from genetic testing, majority of undergraduates perceived to feel ‘helpless or pessimistic’ (56%), ‘inadequate or different’ (59%) and ‘disadvantaged at job seeking’ (59%), indifferent between medically and non-medically-related curriculum (p = 0.24, 1, 0.24).
Conclusions Hong Kong undergraduates showed a high awareness of PM but in contrast there was insufficient knowledge and low interest in pursuing a career towards PM. They were generally aware of ethical issues of genetic testing and especially concerned about patient privacy and data confidentiality; and there appears to be a predominance of pessimistic views towards unfavourable genetic testing results. While this study may not be a representative of the general population, it calls for the attention to evaluate genomic education in Hong Kong.
This study was supported by Teaching Development Grant, The University of Hong Kong; and Common Core Curriculum, Scientific and Technological Literacy CCST9064 - The World Changed by DNA, The University of Hong Kong.
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