Ethical and Social Challenges of Genomic and Precision Medicine

Knowledge linking genomics to health and disease is rapidly expanding. Translation of this knowledge into clinical and public health practice offers promising opportunities but also raises a host of ethical, legal, social, and policy questions. Using case examples, this inter-disciplinary course will explore the challenges of genomic and precision medicine.

About The Course

This seven week, inter-disciplinary course provides an introduction to ethical, legal, social, and policy issues that arise in the translation of genomic knowledge into medical and public health practice. It considers challenges in health related and reproductive testing/screening focusing on six specific areas: 

-          Pre-conception genetic diagnosis, and prenatal testing/screening

-          Newborn screening

-          Use of genomic sequencing technologies to diagnose and predict disease

-          Targeting genomic testing/screening by race/ethnicity.

-          Direct-to-consumer genomic testing/screening

-          Use of “big data” for genomic research and genomic translation

The course uses case studies to illustrate key themes in genomic translation. Students will have an opportunity to interrogate and critique a promising science through lectures and readings from a range of disciplinary perspectives (e.g. history, sociology, genetics, medicine, bioethics) and online discussion.

This course may be of particular interest to students who completed Jeanette McCarthy and Robert Nussbaum's Genomic and Precision Medicine course (, which was offered by UCSF on Coursera in Spring 2014. A repeat of this class is tentatively scheduled for Winter/Spring 2015.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class? 

Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will have the opportunity to receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

  • Is this class eligible for Signature Track? 

Yes. Prior to the beginning of the class, and during the first two weeks, students may sign up for Signature Track to earn a Verified Certificate. Details on Signature Track are available from Coursera in their Signature Track Guidebook.

  • Will Continuing Education credit for practicing physicians be available for this class? 

After the class begins, please check the course site for detailed information about earning Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits for successfully completing this course.

Recommended Background

This course is primarily directed toward learners with an interest in genetics, medical genetics, genetic counseling, public health, as well as members of the broader public with an interest in the ethical, legal, policy, and social issues raised by the new science of genomics.