This semester, Professor Greg Gibson decided to change up the way he teaches his new undergraduate course on personalized medicine. Flipping the classroom is where teachers expect and encourage students to read the material before coming to class, and use the lecture time instead to lead discussion, solve problems, debate the topic, and explore solutions. Much of the effort for the students in BIOL 8003C “Health, Genes and Society” was on term-projects produced groups of three or four students. Below is a brief description of some examples.
Three groups concerned themselves with educational themes. Perhaps the most ambitious is a white paper that argues for an incentive-based scheme for encouraging more healthy lifestyles for students. It turns out that college undergrads typically put on 10 lbs their first semester and often go downhill from there, in many cases also confronting serious stress and anxiety. The group’s idea was for students to get credit on their purchasing “Buzz” cards for making healthy food choices or participating in exercise and work-life balance activities. Another group put together an entire curriculum for a Genomic Counseling Master’s program, envisioning a future where genetic counselors help each of us interpret genome sequences. Perhaps some may even get to enroll in such a post-graduate program at GT before too long. One individual, Jennifer Goff, worked alone but nevertheless came up with an unbelievable lesson plan for high school teachers on the Human Microbiome Project.
Two groups wrote op-ed pieces focusing on the question of why the FDA shut down the company “23andme”, setting back the development of personalized genetic medicine by ten years. The other made the case for twenty-somethings getting their genomes sequenced, or at least genotyped, in the spirit of the Quantified Self movement and taking control of your own health.
Two groups proposed, and partially developed, apps on the topic of wellness. GroupFit will help people find fitness pals with whom they can share their intimate health behavior plans. It is based on solid research and theory backing the notion that mobile health interventions fail when people lose motivation because they are disconnected. The other app, GenetiFit, gamifies personalized medicine. It proposes an Oregon Trail-like game where the objective is to make it to the virtual age of 90 being of sane mind and active body. Taking your genome and family history of disease as baseline, every decision made relating to exercise, diet and stress modifies your health and lets you see how quickly aging is accelerated (there are some pretty scary apps that make such projections).
Gibson says that "one of the greatest pleasures as a teacher is the knowledge that once a year or so he gets to make a difference that helps direct someone’s life in a new and meaningful direction." "As a direct result of this class, 38 students have created something that isn’t just an academic paper, but is a step in a direction that may positively influence the lives of hundreds if not thousands of others."]]>