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Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Frequently Asked Questions

What is NSGC’s Statement on Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.)?

A guiding principle of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) is to integrate genetics and genomics to improve healthcare. As a society, we can only meet this goal by promoting the active participation and leadership of people with diverse identities, perspectives, and backgrounds. Starting within our organization and extending into the larger healthcare system, we seek to empower our members to advocate for themselves, each other, and the diverse people we strive to serve.

HISTORY AND RESPONSIBILITY

We know that a diverse and inclusive organization does not build itself, but must be created through sustained effort by leadership, staff, and each individual member. We acknowledge the history of genetic differences being used and misused to justify stark injustices and reinforce social inequalities. Within the membership and leadership of NSGC, we do not yet have adequate representation or inclusion of minority identities, a disparity that has influenced our policies and services. We are responsible for learning from the past in order to pursue equity in our profession.

ADVOCATES FOR UNDERREPRESENTED PEOPLE

NSGC advocates for the wellbeing of all genetic counselors – present and future - and those who are served by these professionals. We recognize that individuals with underrepresented characteristics and identities face logistical, social, and historical pressures that impact their professional and personal lives. These characteristics include, but are not limited to; age, race, ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, country of origin, culture, language, religion, spiritual beliefs, legal status, health history, and disability. Furthermore, the various characteristics of an individual interact to inform their experiences and perspectives. We strive for a culture of equity that addresses these pressures so that diverse perspectives are respected and empowered in our organization.

COMMITMENT TO AN INCLUSIVE FUTURE

As professionals working at the forefront of clinical genetics, we are witnessing an era of rapid advancements. We recognize the duty to use our skills and knowledge for the benefit of all people so that disparities in healthcare are not compounded by the power of genetics. The skills of genetic counselors are exactly those needed to promote a diverse and inclusive organization: empathy, tailored communication, problem solving, advocacy, and the ability to support people of all backgrounds through important moments in their lives. We acknowledge the need to extend the same types of support we are trained to provide to patients and clients to ourselves and our colleagues.

We know that over 98% of human genetic sequence is identical and our shared humanity unites us. Each of us has the need to feel respected, supported, and that we have a place where we can participate in a meaningful way. We also know that each person’s unique perspective gives them power to contribute to the greater good. NSGC commits to valuing those differences.

WHY IS NSGC EMBARKING INTO THESE JUSTICE, EQUITY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION INITIATIVES?

The mission of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) is to integrate genetics and genomics to improve healthcare. As a society, we can only meet this goal by promoting the active participation and leadership of people with diverse identities, perspectives, and backgrounds. Starting within our organization and extending into the larger healthcare system, we seek to empower our members to advocate for themselves, each other, and individuals from the diverse communities we strive to serve.

WHAT DEFINITION OF DIVERSITY IS NSGC USING?

As described in our statement on diversity, equity and inclusion, diversity encompasses any and all individuals with a range of different characteristics, including but not limited to: age, race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, country of origin, culture, language, religion, spiritual beliefs, legal status, health history, and disability.  Diversity in NSGC and genetic counseling also reflects the many different roles and areas of specialization in which members of the profession practice. View our recent blog on this topic: https://perspectives.nsgc.org/Article/each-letter-counts-introducing-the-nsgc-jedi-committee.

Why did the name change for these NSGC initiatives change from “DEI” to “J.E.D.I.”?

This is an evolving and living space, reflected in the changing names for NSGC’s initiatives and groups involved in this work. We strive to use language that best represents the work and the permanent commitment underpinning these efforts, and this language can change. After much thought and discussion, “J” for justice was added to the DEI Committee name to fully capture the scope of the work we are trying to achieve.

I'VE HEARD THAT NSGC IS WORKING WITH A DEI CONSULTANT. WHO ARE THEY AND WHAT ARE THEY WORKING ON?

NSGC has contracted the Exeter Group, a Chicago-based healthcare equity consulting firm to conduct an organizational assessment, to assess the state of DEI within NSGC. Additionally, the Exeter Group is working closely with NSGC leadership, staff and the membership to craft and provide guidance on implementing a DEI plan that is effective, integrated and sustainable. 

I WOULD LIKE TO SEE/TAKE ACTION. WHAT CAN I DO?

Thank you - we welcome your engagement with us as we undertake this important initiative. It is important to us that we include as many voices as possible in this process.

  • PARTICIPATE. Review the Exeter report once it’s available and provide feedback about the report and how to prioritize recommendations and actions via the comment software. Spread the word to your GC colleagues. Help us shape our action plan so that it is inclusive and reflective of our needs.
  • NOMINATE AND ELEVATE VOICES. Do you have colleagues or friends who you think would bring an important perspective to NSGC?
    • Submit nominations for our Board of Directors
    • Nominate your colleagues for awards
    • Encourage individuals to volunteer during our annual call for volunteers
    • Nominate or encourage SIG members to seek SIG leadership positions
    • Nominate or encourage individuals to volunteer for speaking and subject matter expert roles
    • Select “Student Contact Welcome” in your NSGC profile to allow prospective students to contact you regarding mentoring, shadowing or general questions
  • COMMIT TO GROWTH. Explore your own personal growth. Need help getting started? Check out these resources curated by the J.E.D.I. Committee.

 

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