What Is a Genetic Counselor?

Whenever I meet new people and get asked about my occupation, I almost always get asked “What is a genetic counselor anyway?” If you’ve never had a personal experience with the field, there’s a good chance you might not have heard of it.

According to the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC), “Genetic counselors have advanced training in medical genetics and counseling to interpret genetic test results, and to guide and support patients seeking more information.” The NSGC also explains that we help patients better understand:

  • How inherited diseases and conditions might affect them or their families
  • How their family and medical histories impact their chance of getting a disease
  • Which genetic tests may or may not be right for them and what those tells will tell them
  • How to make the most informed choices about healthcare conditions

Significant developments have occurred in the field of medical genetics. However, many healthcare providers are not trained with significant genetics education. We help provide this gap in expertise between patients and their providers.

I work at ProMedica Cancer Institute and focus solely in the cancer specialty. However, genetic counselors can work in many diverse settings. You may see them in some of these areas:

  • Prenatal/Preconception care
  • Pediatric care
  • Cancer care
  • Heart and vascular care
  • Research
  • Specialty Clinics

Currently, there are more than 4,000 certified genetic counselors. The field is growing as genetic information is being applied to more sub-specialties of health care. This growth has created a great demand for genetic counselors and their expertise.

If you have questions regarding genetic counseling or testing, please call the ProMedica Cancer Institute’s Cancer Genetics Program at 419-824-5073. You can also find further information about the field at www.abougeneticcounselors.com as well as www.nsgc.org.

Sarah AdelspergerSarah Adelsperger, MS, LCGC, is a board-certified genetic counselor specializing in cancer. Sarah joined Kelly Morse, MS, LCGC, in the Cancer Genetics Program in May 2015 at ProMedica Cancer Institute–the only program in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan with two licensed and board-certified genetics counselors specializing in cancer genetics.