Genetic Counseling

School of Health and Human Sciences

Mallory SchultzPublic Health Genetic Counselors: Roles, Knowledge, Skills and Where to Learn
Capstone Project Committee: 
Nancy Callanan, MS, CGC, Sat Gupta, PhD (Statistical Consultant), Kirsty McWalter, MS, CGC, Karen Potter Powell, MS, CGC
Recent data show that genetic counselors are working in public health roles. However, these data only indicate the genetic counselors whose primary role is public health. Genetic counselors may participate in public health activities but not consider themselves a public health genetic counselor, or realize that the activity relates to public health. The goals of this study were to determine the number of genetic counselors engaging in public health activities, the skills being used in those activities, and where skills were learned. Methods: A novel survey was developed to assess respondents’ participation across five categories of public health: population-based screening programs, education of the public and/or health care professionals, research, lobbying/public policy and state chronic disease programs. Results: Participants reported working in all five categories of public health. A majority reported activities in education and screening. Eighty four percent of participants (n=131) reported spending 0- 40% of their working hours in public health activities. Participants most commonly reported learning skills “on the job” and in genetic counseling training programs. Conclusion: Genetic counselors have a skill set that allows them to participate in many areas of healthcare, including public health. This skill set is developed in genetic counseling training programs and broadened “on the job.”
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