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J Genet Couns. 2010 Dec;19(6):593-605. doi: 10.1007/s10897-010-9313-1. Epub 2010 Aug 11.

Expanding roles: a survey of public health genetic counselors.

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  • 1Center for Biotechnology, Genomics and Health Research, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 1111 Spring Garden Street, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170, USA.


According to the 2008 National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) Professional Status Survey (PSS), 31 genetic counselor respondents reported spending at least 50% of their time in the area of public health. The NSGC Public Health Special Interest Group (PHSIG) had 49 dues-paying members in 2009. The purpose of this study was to identify the work settings and public health activities in which genetic counselors participate. A novel online survey was disseminated over the NSGC PHSIG Listserv. Forty-one percent (nā€‰=ā€‰13) of public health genetic counselor respondents worked in a university medical system, while 53% (nā€‰=ā€‰17) were grant-funded and held a non-clinical appointment. The most common public health activities included educating healthcare professionals (82%) and community members (61%), research (55%), grant writing (55%) and grant administration (36%). Most respondents (82%) reported learning certain public health skills outside of their genetic counseling training programs. Differences in work settings were found, with a significantly greater percentage of public health genetic counselors working in government agencies. Genetic counselors have opportunities to become involved in public health activities as the scope of public health genetics grows. Furthermore, genetic counseling competencies are compatible with the Institute of Medicine's "10 Essential Public Health Services." The NSGC and genetic counseling training programs are encouraged to offer more public health learning opportunities for genetic counselors and genetic counseling students interested in this specialty area.

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