Nicole Letendre ’23
On October 15th, a Genetic Counseling Virtual Career Fair was held over Zoom, featuring representatives from many genetic counseling degree programs, in particular the prestigious institution of Johns Hopkins University. Of the three representatives of Johns Hopkins Genetic Counseling program, there was one first-year student, one third year student, and the Associate Program Director. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, genetic counseling involves a professional trained in genetic conditions, who is able to determine the likelihood of inheriting a genetic condition based on health history; and with that information, they are able to counsel people, regarding decisions such as taking genetic tests.
Base level coursework, practice-based competency, science and genetic courses, and the importance of the counseling component are deeply involved in genetic counseling programs, such as that of Johns Hopkins. As the Associate Program Director stated, “We have a many-pronged approach.” With 1:1 faculty supervision, students meet with their supervisor every week for an hour to discuss the program. In addition, there are ample opportunities for peer mentorships, as there are cohorts of first and second years in classes together. Many programs, such as at Johns Hopkins, have various electives in addition to clinical rotations in different departments, such as in pediatric genetic counseling. Clinics give students the opportunity to encounter many unique disorders and chemical conditions.
One statement in particular stood out to me during this virtual fair. The Associate Program Director mentioned that students will learn to consider, “who is this one person in front of you,” referring to each person’s experiences, background, and unique viewpoint. In other words, that is where the indispensable component of counseling comes in. That exceptionally strong instruction on counseling is just one of the many benefits of a more prolonged program, such as the two and a half year timeline of the genetic counseling program at Johns Hopkins. The Associate Director stated, “You get extra of everything,” and are able to “tailor the education to what you want it to be.” Exceptional programs such as these allow students to dive into not only scientific study, but also receive a holistic education concerning counseling, their own personal growth, and the exploration of their interests.
Ultimately, there are many outstanding programs for genetic counseling, but it’s important to do research about the timeline, academic focuses, and clinical opportunities of the program itself. Genetic counseling is a valuable field that could use someone like you, who is excited about scientific advances and can be a compassionate and caring professional to patients. For more information on Genetic Counseling as a career field, visit: http://www.nsgc.org/page/becomeageneticcounselor