Call for improvement in medical school training in genetics: results of a national survey



To assess, from the student perspective, medical school training in genetics and genomics.


In 2019, the Undergraduate Training in Genomics (UTRIG) Working Group developed genetics-related survey and knowledge questions for the RISE-FIRST, an exam administered to postgraduate year 1 (PGY1) pathology residents in the United States during their first months of training. Survey questions focused on perceived knowledge in genetics and the structure and quality of training with responses compared with those in control areas.


There were 401 PGY1 pathology residents who took the 2019 RISE-FIRST (65% of those in the United States). There was significantly lower perceived understanding of genetics compared with nongenetics topics. Respondents also reported less time spent learning genetics and lower quality training compared with control areas. Only 53% indicated an interaction during medical school with a medical geneticist. Residents also did not perform as well on the UTRIG-developed knowledge questions than those in other areas of pathology.


The RISE-FIRST is a useful tool in assessing the current state of medical school training in genetics. This needs assessment may serve as a call to action to improve medical school genetics education and promote greater understanding of the role of genetics professionals in patient care.

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Fig. 1: Perceived understanding of medical school topics.
Fig. 2: Familiarity with online genetics tools.
Fig. 3: Interactions with health-care professionals.
Fig. 4: Comparison of time and quality of training in molecular genetics and genomic medicine.

Data availability

This work does not include any clinical data or development of materials or software. If requested, the data are available for review.


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This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (R25CA168544).

Author information





Conceptualization: R.L.H., R.L.W., J.R.G. Data curation: J.W. Formal analysis: R.L.H., J.W., K.F. Writing—original draft: R.L.H. Writing—review & editing: R.L.H., R.L.W., J.R.G., J.W., K.F.

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Correspondence to Rebecca L. Wilcox.

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This work does not report a clinical study or experiment with human subjects. This study was judged by the investigators to be exempt from institutional review board based on the federal regulation 45 CFR 46.101(b)(2), which covers research involving the use of educational tests. In compliance with that regulation, none of the recorded or published information can be linked to any human subject, directly or through identifiers.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Haspel, R.L., Genzen, J.R., Wagner, J. et al. Call for improvement in medical school training in genetics: results of a national survey. Genet Med (2021).

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