Genetics: Complex Inheritance: Genetics of Common Complex Disorders

Medical students will recognize that most human disease is the result of complex interactions between genetics and environment and will be able to determine the relative contribution of these factors to define occurrence likelihoods and appropriate preventative measures.

: 1 hr

After completing this activity participants will be able to:

  • Discuss the role of genetic predisposition and environmental factors in determining multifactorial conditions, and the models that attempt to explain these complex interactions.

  • Identify the factors that increase the likelihood of a defined genetic etiology (single-gene, chromosomal) when assessing a personal or family history of common conditions.

  • Determine appropriate recurrence risks for complex conditions using knowledge of multifactorial inheritance and published empiric risk data.

  • Assess the benefits and limitations of susceptibility gene tests for common conditions.

  • Effectively communicate the current (and often limited) knowledge base about the inheritance of complex conditions and the options for dealing with those risks to patients.

Professional Practice GapsIn an effort to define what healthcare providers need to know about medical genetics, several organizations developed core competencies (NCHPEG, 2000; ASHG, 2001). However, because clinical genetics is a relatively young and evolving field of medicine, many practitioners received insufficient formal genetics education. As a result, they express a lack of confidence in their clinical genetics knowledge and a lack of confidence in their ability to provide genetic counseling. References
Association of Professors of Human and Medical Genetics, American Society of Human Genetics. Medical school core curriculum in genetics. ASHG Website. December 2001. Available at: Accessed on: 2004-06-15.
Core competencies in genetics essential for all health-care professionals. National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics. 2000. Available at: Accessed on: 2004-09-21.