Genetic Counseling Program

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Increasing Undergraduate Student Awareness of Genetic Counseling as a Career Choice.   By Melanie Hardy

Background:  Undergraduates pursuing health careers and their health career advisors (HCA) have limited exposure to the genetic counseling profession.  Recruitment methods that demonstrate tasks and provide demographics of the profession can increase awareness and interest in genetic counseling as a career choice.  Hypothesis:  Students and HCAs who view an interactive, case-based learning module about genetic counseling will report an increase in knowledge and awareness of the profession. Methods:  An interactive, case-based web module was developed that described a counseling session with a woman diagnosed with breast cancer.  At several points, viewers were asked to choose the most appropriate approach to proceed through the case.  Embedded links allowed viewers to obtain additional information about the case and the profession.  Undergraduate biology students were recruited from five universities in NC.  HCAs were recruited via a national listserve.  Pre- and post-viewing surveys measured participants’ self-assessed awareness and knowledge of genetic counseling and interest in pursuing or recommending it as a career. Results:  The majority of students (n = 100) were biology majors (83%) considering a health care career (76%).  They showed significant increases in self-reported ability to describe the tasks of a genetic counselor (p < 0.001) and the likelihood of pursuing a career in genetic counseling (p = 0.022).  They rated the effectiveness of the module as a learning tool about the genetic counseling profession at 4.38 on a 5-point scale.  HCAs (n = 50) reported significant increases in familiarity with genetic counseling and their ability to describe genetic counseling tasks (p < 0.001).  Conclusions:  The case-based web module was an effective tool for increasing awareness, knowledge, and interest in genetic counseling among both undergraduate students and HCAs. 

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  • "I chose to attend UNCG because of its shared learning environment and the access to some of the leading institutions in the country. "

  • "UNCG is a great fit for me. The program directors have extensive experience in the world of genetic counseling and provide you with opportunities to work with some of the best medical centers in the country. Our location allows us to have expert guest lecturers, many of whom you also get to work alongside or observe in your clinical rotations in your second year. We also have some really wonderful and unique opportunities as a part of this program: we observe in syndrome specific support groups and clinics, tour genetic laboratories, and are matched with a family with a genetic disease to learn what it is like to live with a genetic condition. Finally, our directors are genuinely invested in each of us, and care about our success and getting to know each of us personally."

  • "The director and assistant director do their best to ensure that our program provides a collaborative learning experience.  Both are active members of the Genetic Counseling community and strive to introduce you to all aspects of this field.  We also have renowned clinical sites and the beautiful state of North Carolina at our disposal.”