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J Genet Couns. 2012 Feb;21(1):136-49. doi: 10.1007/s10897-011-9407-4. Epub 2011 Sep 3.

Transition to the clinical doctorate: attitudes of the genetic counseling training program directors in North America.

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  • 1Master of Science Program in Genetic Counseling, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA.


In North America, genetic counseling is an allied health profession where entry level practitioners currently must hold a master's degree earned from a graduate program accredited by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. This is one of many health care professions that could transition to an entry level clinical doctorate degree. This study explored the attitudes of genetic counseling training program directors toward such a transition. Thirty-one North American program directors were invited to complete an online survey and a follow-up telephone interview. Twenty-one program directors completed the survey and ten directors also completed a follow up phone interview. There was disagreement among the respondents on the issue of transitioning to a clinical doctorate degree (nine in favor, six against and six undecided). Respondents disagreed about whether the transition would lead to higher salaries (six yes, eight no, and seven unsure) or increased professional recognition (eight yes, eight no, and four unsure). Approximately half (nā€‰=ā€‰10) of directors were not sure if the transition to a clinical doctorate would help or hurt minority recruitment; six thought it would help and four thought it would hurt. However, the majority (nā€‰=ā€‰13) thought a clinical doctorate would help genetic counselors to obtain faculty positions. If the field transitions to a clinical doctorate, 11 of the directors thought their program would convert, seven were unsure and one thought their program would shut down. Themes identified in interview data included 1) implications for the profession 2) institution-specific considerations and 3) perception of the unknown. Opinions are quite varied at this time regarding the possible transition to the clinical doctorate among genetic counseling training program directors.

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