Genetic Counselor Awareness Day is November 9th.  In honor of this day, let’s take a moment to learn more about this specialized medical profession that helps individualize patient care by seeing patients, working in laboratories, and performing research into our genetics.

There are currently over five thousand genetic counselors in the United States.  Numerous genetic counselors pursue a career in this field so that they can combine their passion for science with direct patient care and be at the center of personalized genomic medicine as well.  In North America, there are over forty-three accredited genetic counseling training programs.  To be considered a certified genetic counselor, an individual must graduate from one of these dedicated programs and pass a specialized genetic counseling board examination.

Genetic counseling is an integral part of healthcare today.  Genetic counselors are specialized healthcare providers with expertise in genetics and counseling.  Most often, genetic counselors work in the clinical space and see patients in-person or via telemedicine platforms (e.g., phone calls, video chat, etc.).  Genetic counselors assist patients in understanding and adapting to the medical, psychological, and familial implications of genetic diseases.  Genetic counselors thoroughly evaluate an individual’s personal and family medical histories and interpret this information to assess the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence.  Genetic counselors also educate patients about inheritance, genetic testing, management of disease, and prevention of disease.  Additionally, a genetic counselor usually has a wealth of resources available for patients, such as clinical studies, support groups, and well-curated reading materials.  The goal of genetic counseling is to inform, educate, and help patients adapt to their risk or genetic health condition.  A genetic counselor helps patients navigate the highly complicated field of genomic medicine.

In the past ten years, it has been increasingly common to have genetic counselors inhabit other roles to improve the overall patient experience.  One of the most quickly growing positions is that of a laboratory genetic counselor.  Some genetic counselors who work for a laboratory provide brief genetic counseling consultations to help patients understand their genetic testing results, especially if a patient does not have access to genetic counselors at a local hospital.  Other genetic counselors do not directly interact with patients; however, they provide act as an expert resource to clinical genetic counselors, which ultimately enriches your experience as a patient.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a genetic counselor or would like to learn more about the profession in general, please visit aboutgeneticcounselors.com.  If you require the services and expertise of a genetic counselor, please visit findageneticcounselor.com.  Both websites are maintained by the National Society for Genetic Counselors.