A problem-based learning approach

Our understanding of the contribution of gene mutations to disease is changing rapidly. However, as stated in one report, “many health care and public health professionals lack sufficient knowledge about the application and interpretation of genetics in the clinic or in the community” (Shirts & Parker, 2008). Additionally, primary care physicians face increasing demand to counsel patients about the benefits and limitations of genetic testing, a role which has not traditionally been part of a primary care practice.

I created a website designed to provide problem-based learning challenges and supporting materials for primary care physicians to help them to determine:

  • When genetic testing to assess cancer predisposition is appropriate; and
  • What considerations guide how physicians should counsel patients on the benefits, limitations, and potential risks of genetic testing.

While the use of case studies as a learning tool is familiar to this audience, the task of responding to case studies by developing practice tools generally is not. The role of the instructor (supported by resources in a separate portion of the website) is to serve as a facillitator to help learners develop effective problem-solving and collaboration skills.


Shirts, B. H., & Parker, L. S. (2008). Changing interpretations, stable genes: responsibility of patients, professionals, and policy makers in the clinical interpretation of complex genetic information. Genetics in Medicine,10(11), 778-783.

cancer genetics website

cancer genetics website