A look back – and forward – on genetic counselors’ accomplishments

A look back – and forward – on genetic counselors’ accomplishments

To me, the NSGC conference is always special. But this year, attending the meeting as president and joining you in celebrating the35th anniversary of our conference made it just a little more special than usual for me!

In 1981 in San Diego, 182 genetic counselors and others attended the very first NSGC AEC. And here we are 35 years later in Seattle with our largest attendance ever at well over 2,000. Among the things we’re celebrating this year are the accomplishments of some of our organization’s leading voices, our past presidents, outstanding NSGC volunteers who are contributing to moving our organization and our profession forward, and the profound positive impact three award winning clinical counselors made for their patients.  

In another exciting milestone for our profession, more than 400 abstracts have been presented during the AEC as posters or talks, allowing us to celebrate the breadth and diversity of the research that we undertake in our profession.

Another study suggests that healthcare providers who treat children with cancer may struggle with interpreting and reporting results of genomic tests to families. In addition, the providers report wanting guidance from experts such as genetic counselors. The need for our specific expertise is not surprising to us, but sometimes it takes a study to put it in perspective!

To see more research presented at this year’s AEC, visit our newsroom.

This work is varied and wide ranging, but the studies do share common elements, too! They were driven by genetic counselors, and that suggests to me that they are founded on some shared core values – indeed, this is what drives genetic counselors to pursue the training that we do. The values genetic counselors share include deep interest in both people and genetics, valuing patient autonomy in healthcare decision making, and wanting to make a difference and help others. All of these pieces of research reflect those values in different ways.

Though genetic counselors’ careers launch from a common origin, our individual career paths take us in all sorts of different directions of specialty, geography, goals and type of work. For me, our conference presents an annual opportunity for genetic counselors to connect to our roots, our shared history and values, and acknowledge and celebrate all the different paths our careers have taken and how we have evolved, both as individuals and as a profession. These diverse and important pieces of research reflect that, too.

Anniversaries compel us to look back, and looking back gives us pride in the work we’ve done and inspires us to continue that work.  At the same time, especially when we gather for the AEC, we look forward. And when we do, we see the opportunities and challenges. Genetics continues to break new frontiers, patients will continue to be empowered, and also challenged, by genetic tests and the information they reveal.  And genetic counselors will continue to be there, using our deep interest in genetics and people to make a difference.

Happy anniversary to us all.

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