Vanier scholar to explore stakeholder perspectives of pharmacogenomic testing in primary care
Alexandra Cernat, a current student in the Health Policy PhD program was awarded the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship for her research centered in primary care.
The Vanier scholarship program is the Government of Canada’s most prestigious scholarship for doctoral students and supports students who demonstrate both leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies in the social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and/or engineering, and health. The award is worth $50,000 a year for three years.
Cernat is one of 55 national recipients of the scholarships awarded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
Cernat’s research will explore stakeholder perspectives on the implementation of pharmacogenomic (PGx) testing for depressive disorders in primary care.
“PGx testing determines whether someone has a genetic variant that affects how they would respond to a particular drug. Implementing this testing is expected to improve how clinicians prescribe medications and reduce negative drug reactions,” said Cernat.
Despite the potential for significant impact, PGx testing is not yet widely performed in the clinical setting and has not been implemented at all in primary care in Canada.
Through multiple studies, including interviews with patients, primary care providers, and policy makers, her research will explore the social, ethical, and health professional practice issues that accompany the anticipated implementation of pharmacogenomic testing for depressive disorders into primary care.
The findings of her research will contribute to the development of policy reflective of stakeholder preferences and values.
Cernat earned an honours bachelor of life sciences degree from McMaster in 2018. She went on to complete a master of science in health services research at the University of Toronto. She began her doctoral studies in the Health Policy PhD program at McMaster University in 2020.
“McMaster’s Health Policy PhD program was the clear choice for my doctoral training with it’s innovative interdisciplinary curriculum and access to a cluster of health policy scholars who examine decision making from a wide array of perspectives and disciplines,” said Cernat.
Cernat is supervised by Meredith Vanstone, associate professor in the department of family medicine and member of the university’s Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis (CHEPA). Vanstone leads an interdisciplinary research program focusing on ethically complex areas of health care. Committee members include Julia Abelson (Health Research Methods, Evidence & Impact), Amanda Ramdyal (Family Medicine), and Zena Samaan (Psychiatry).
“We’ve assembled a great interdisciplinary team with the right expertise to support the complexity of Alex’s dissertation research. Pharmacogenomic testing holds a lot of promise for balancing the burden and benefits of treatment, but there are a host of organizational, ethical, and social challenges. Alex’s work will produce evidence that will help the Ontario health system get this right,” said Vanstone.
Cernat’s work is supported by the resources of the David Braley Primary Care Research Collaborative, a research cluster with the goal of producing policy and clinically relevant research to strengthen the primary care system.News, Research