The expanding field of molecular genetics has quickly outpaced the knowledge of medical providers, due in part to the Human Genome Project. The genetics of brain illnesses are only beginning to be understood, nevertheless, providers treating patients with mental health, substance abuse and neurological disorders need to understand clearly what is and is not known about genetics and brain illnesses. It is likely that genetic aspects of schizophrenia, autism, mental retardation, bipolar disorder, among others, will be further identified in the near future, creating confusion and difficult choices for patients and families. Current and future providers must be prepared to explain and understand genetic susceptibility as it applies to a full range of illnesses. In Phase I, we will develop and evaluate an Internet-based CE program focusing on genetic issues related to alcoholism. We will also use the course the discuss upcoming technologies as well as issues related to discussing genetic risk with a patient. Phase II will produce 7 additional course on a variety of topic related to illnesses of the brain including Mixed Substance Abuse, Alzheimer's Disease, Schizophrenia, Affective Disorders, Attention Deficit, Huntington's Disease, and Mental Retardation. For each course we will highlight: 1) how genetic knowledge may affect patients and be used in clinical practice; 2) communication of genetic knowledge with patients and families: preparing for patients' questions; 3) where relevant, ethical, legal and psychosocial issues related to genetic testing, and 4) understanding emerging technologies and findings in genetics. A multidisciplinary team including representatives from psychiatry, genetics, genetic counseling, and primary care will create the content. We will evaluate the courses' effect on knowledge, clinical skills and self-efficacy using simple randomized studies comparing subjects using the genetics course to subjects using an online CE course on another topic. If successful, the training will expand the capabilities of the existing pool of providers and improve the training of future providers regarding the role of genetics in illnesses of the brain.
Physicians are required to obtain CME credit to maintain licensure and privileges. Managed care organizations (MCOs), such as large HMOs, may be interested in purchasing access to CE that can be offered to participant professionals. Pharmaceutical companies may also want to support development of courses based on the model described in this application.