From the lab to the laptop to the bedside, genomics opens doors for various fields of work.
Each genomic test requires a multidisciplinary team of professionals. Here, we explore some of the many professions involved in genomics.
A scientist who uses algorithms and software to analyse biological data, such as genomic data, for clinical and research purposes.
A medical doctor with specialist training in diagnosing and treating genetic conditions. Clinical geneticists can help people who are affected by, or at risk of, genetic conditions to understand and make decisions about their genomic health.
An analytical expert who combines computer science, statistics and mathematics to analyse large sets of data, such as the data generated from sequencing genomes. Genomic sequencing generates a very large amount of DNA data, which requires the expertise of specially trained data scientists to analyse, interpret and securely store individuals’ genomic information.
The different professions involved in delivering genomic medicine require specialised education and training to be able to perform their roles. Genomics educators investigate the different needs of each profession, across the different settings, then develop and deliver appropriate education and training programs.
Epidemiologists study disease at the population level, including patterns of spread, causes and management. Genetic epidemiologists use both genetic and environmental information in relation to human health. Epidemiologists can use genomics to track the cause and spread of infectious diseases. For example, they track the genomes of bacteria, including ‘superbugs’, and viruses like SARS-CoV2 that causes COVID-19.
Ethicists and legal professionals
Experts in ethical, legal and social and/or policy implications (ELSI) who may help governments, organisations, health care services and workplaces consider issues around using genetic and genomic testing. This can be through research or developing policies for appropriate use of genomic testing, and storage and sharing of genomic data.
An allied health professional qualified in both genetics and counselling, who helps individuals, couples and families understand and make decisions about their genomic health. Genetic counsellors usually work with associated healthcare professionals such as clinical geneticists, obstetricians, oncologists, neurologists and cardiologists.
A medical specialist qualified to perform laboratory investigations to identify genetic conditions and determine clinical significance for patients and families. They work closely with medical scientists and clinical geneticists in genetic testing laboratories, and use research and investigation skills to help find diagnoses for genetic conditions.
Nurses may have additional training and education in genetics and genomics. They may provide specialised care for patients who are at risk for or affected by diseases with a genetic component, e.g., cardiology or neurology, or help identify and prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses in a health care setting.
A data specialist who blends information technology, communication and health care to improve how health information is captured, transmitted and used in a variety of health care settings. Health informaticians can use their skill set to improve and develop systems that support genomic data.
Hospital infection control staff
A professional who specialises in preventing and controlling the spread of infectious diseases within a hospital. Infection control workers can act on insights from real-time tracking of infectious disease, conducted by epidemiologists using genomics, to prevent further spread.
Infectious disease medical specialist
A medical doctor specialising in how microbes (including viruses and bacteria) cause illness, how to prevent and control their spread and how to treat infected patients most effectively. Infectious disease specialists can use genomic sequencing to track the spread of pathogens and to treat patients more effectively.
A scientist who conducts medical laboratory tests to provide information for diagnosing, treating and/or preventing disease. Medical scientists might work in laboratories that handle a variety of patient tests and sample types, or they might specialise in, for example, analysing a patient’s genomic information.
A medical doctor who has done additional training in a specific area of medicine, for example genetics, cardiology (heart conditions), dermatology (skin conditions), oncology (cancer) or neurology (nervous system conditions). They will usually be the clinician who arranges genomic testing for a patient.
A scientist who studies the microscopic organisms that cause infections, including viruses, bacteria, fungi and algae. They are part of the team tracking infectious disease outbreaks.
Pathologists identify the cause and processes of disease by analysing a sample from a patient. Pathologists are medical specialists who deliver pathology services together with medical scientists and technicians.
A professional who informs, educates and raises awareness of science-related topics, in this case genomics, for a range of audiences.
A professional with a background in computer science and coding who can design and develop software to meet a particular need. In genomics, a software developer would work with data scientists to develop programs to analyse very large genomic data files and methods for secure storage of genomic information and safe sharing of the information where consent is given.