Are Health Professional
Advisors an Under-Utilized Resource for Recruiting Students and Diversity into
the Genetic Counseling Field? By Amanda Noyes
Introduction: The diversity in the genetic counseling field does not resemble that of the general population. According to the NSGC's 2006 Professional Status Survey, the majority of practicing genetic counselors are Caucasian females. A 2005 study by Oh and Lewis discovered that previous awareness of genetic counseling is correlated with consideration of the profession and that the students who were already aware of genetic counseling were more likely to be Caucasian females. Minority and male students were equally likely to consider the field if they had previous awareness. A survey of students enrolled in genetic counseling training programs in the 2003-2004 school year by Lega et al. (2005) revealed that only 2.5% of the 235 students first learned of genetic counseling through a career counselor. Health profession advisors (HPA) are in the ideal position on college campuses to create and improve awareness about genetic counseling. Methods: We surveyed 122 HPA to examine their knowledge of genetic counseling, their previous experiences with the field and how they prefer to receive new information about health professions. In addition, we solicited advising responses to hypothetical scenarios. Results: The findings indicate there are deficits in HPA knowledge about the profession. None of the HPA demographics, including gender, ethnicity, years of experience or number of genetic counseling training programs in their region correlated with genetic counseling knowledge. HPA demonstrated a preference for suggesting genetic counseling to female students with higher GPAs over male students. Web-based sources were the most frequently chosen preference for receiving new information about health professions.