There are various circumstances in which an individual may consider seeing a genetic counselor or their provider may refer them to one. This article will focus on what sorts of questions you may want to ask your genetic counselor to know about their qualifications as the field of genetic counseling is fairly new. Genetics is a rapidly changing field and it is important for genetic counselors to be held to high standards so that we can ensure quality patient care. The following are questions/points to consider when you are about to see a genetic counselor:
What kind of training did you complete to become a genetic counselor?
Genetic counselors require a Master’s degree from a graduate school that has accreditation from the American Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). Genetic counselors typically have a Master’s degree in either Medical/Human Genetics or Genetic Counseling.
Are you board certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC)?
In order to sit for the American Board of Genetic Counseling Certification Exam, individuals must graduate from an accredited genetic counseling program. Regardless of whether your genetic counselor is practicing in a state that has genetic counselor licensure or not, genetic counselors are expected to obtain their certification as a benchmark.
Are you genetic counselor licensed by the State Medical Board?
In the state of Ohio, a genetic counselor must hold a license through the state medical board, according to Ohio Revised Code 4778.02. In general, across the United States, many states do hold licensure for genetic counselors, however because the field is relatively new, not all states do yet. Currently the state of Michigan does not have licensure for genetic counselors; however there are many efforts underway to pass a genetic counselor licensure bill.
Do your genetic counselor have an area of interest or specialization?
Although genetic counselors are trained broadly in medical genetics through their graduate training, most genetic counselors have a “niche” that they work in. Most genetic counselors work in a specific area of medicine such as Oncology, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Pediatrics, or in Research. If you are seeing a genetic counselor related to a family history of cancer, they may be able to provide you general information related to carrier screening (relevant to Prenatal Genetics), but they may not be able to provide you as much information as a genetic counselor who works in the Prenatal specialty. The field of genetics is becoming ever complicated so it nearly impossible for one person to be an expert in all areas of genetics.
If you have questions regarding genetic counseling or genetic testing, please call the ProMedica Cancer Institute’s Cancer Genetics Program at 419-824-5073.
Sarah 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.