Genetics and Public Health


Course Objective

1. The student can explain that some disorders develop according to
Mendelian principles of inheritance (and knows exceptions to Mendel's
laws), but that genetics plays a different role in many disorders that
are important to public health (such as cancer, cardiovascular
disorders, diabetes mellitus);
2. The student can describe how and where in the health care setting
genetics/genomics is used (clinical genetics, public health, genetic
screening, preconception care). Also, he/she can describe the different
goals of public health versus clinical genetics, and the ethical
dilemmas this raises;
3. The student can explain that tailored prevention is of clinical
benefit, in particular when there is interaction between gene(s) and
4. The student can explain how knowledge of genetics/genomics can be
implemented in health care and what challenges can be expected.

Course Content

Different topics that will be addressed:
• Different ways in which variations in DNA/chromosomes lead to disease;
• Population genetics, gene-environment interactions, epigenetics;
• Healthcare in relation to genetic disorders (clinical genetics,
genetic screening, preconception care);
• The impact of a hereditary disease on individuals, families and
• Genetic risk, psychological and behavioral aspects of genetics;
• The tension between public health and (clinical) genetics;
• Ethical, legal, historical and social aspects of genetics;
• Challenges in the translation of science (new genetic knowledge) into
public policy and healthcare;
• Criteria for (useful) genetic testing and genetic screening,
Direct-To-Consumer genetic testing;
• New possibilities and challenges regarding whole exome and whole
genome sequencing;
• New developments regarding gene editing and (ethical) dilemma's.

Teaching Methods

• (Working) Lectures (30 hrs);
• Subgroup sessions; Discussions in small groups about topical themes
with regard to public health and genetics (6 hrs), and oral
presentations by students (6 hrs);
• Individual assignments and group assignment in which the students work
together describing the translation of a particular genomics application
into healthcare (self-/group study).

Method of Assessment

Written examination in English consisting of open and multiple choice
questions, based on the lectures and the provided literature (70%), a
written report (20%), and an oral presentation (10%).
Examination, Report, and Presentation should all three be passed (grade
5.5 or more).
Students can only pass if they meet the presence requirements.


A course reader will be available online; additional literature
(articles) will be announced on Canvas shortly before the course

Target Audience

This is a course in the Health Sciences minor Biomedical Topics in
Healthcare. The course is open to both Health Sciences students and
Biomedical students from VU University Amsterdam. Students from other
universities and doing a similar educational track are also invited to
participate. The minor is not recommended for VU Health and Life
Sciences students. We have a maximum of 65 students.

Additional Information

Course coordinator:
dr. L. Henneman, Dept of Clinical Genetics, VUMC
Other teachers in this course are:
prof.dr. M.C. Cornel, Dept of Clinical Genetics, VUMC
dr. C.G. Van El, Dept of Clinical Genetics, VUMC

Among the guest lecturers are:
prof.dr. M. Mannens, Dept of Clinical Genetics, AMC
dr. T. Rigter, Dept of Clinical Genetics, VUMC
dr. Q. Waisfisz, Dept of Clinical Genetics, VUMC
dr. P. Zwijnenburg, Dept of Clinical Genetics, VUMC

[Dit vak is onderdeel van een minor en heeft een maximaal aantal
deelnemers. Studenten die de hele minor doen, hebben voorrang.]

Custom Course Registration

Recommended background knowledge

Basic genetics

General Information

Course Code AB_1025
Credits 6 EC
Period P2
Course Level 300
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator dr. L. Henneman
Examiner dr. L. Henneman
Teaching Staff dr. L. Henneman
dr. C.G. van El
prof. dr. M.C. Cornel

Practical Information

You cannot register for this course yourself; your faculty's education office carries out registration

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar, Study Group, Lecture