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Did you know that the US now has 45 accredited graduate training programs in genetic counseling? It’s a growing field and, in this episode of Leading with Health, Taya Fallen joins me to talk about her work as a genetic counselor.

Taya is a licensed and board-certified genetic counselor in the state of Illinois and the lead genetic counselor at Insight Medical Genetics. She is a graduate of the Genetic Counseling program at Northwestern University, where she is also a core faculty member contributing to the education and development of future genetic counselors.

Highlights include:

4:49 – Genetic counselors have been integrated into many different avenues.

5:10 – There are now 45 accredited graduate training programs in the US in genetic counseling.

5:31 – Vast majority of genetic counselors have a Master’s level education, either in human genetics or genetic counseling. Typically, it’s a 2-year training program.

5:55 – We study laboratory methods, genetics, inheritance patterns, statistics and ethics.

6:15 – The second part of our training is in the psycho-social elements of what we do.

7:20 – In order to practice as a genetic counselor, after your training, you have to provide to the American Board of Genetic Counseling a log book of your clinical training.

7:40 – Students will observe cases, participate in cases, do practicums, and canned cases with actors to give them the skill set and practice they need.

9:55 – The crazy story of how Taya got into genetic counseling.

12:16 – The patient perspective on genetic counseling.

13:27 – The vast majority of our time is spent asking questions and then listening to patient concerns and what they are hoping will come from our encounter. Sometimes it’s a one-time visit or multiple visits.

14:38 – Many times people come to us and their first thoughts or concerns are not about themselves; it’s about their children or their siblings.

16:08 – We do quite a bit of educating, but not like a lecture. It’s more of a discussion.

17:10 – In a clinical setting, most often the physicians refer patients to a genetics clinics or counselor.

17:51 – We work alongside oncologists or pediatricians or reproductive geneticists or ob/gyns, maternal-fetal medicine docs or social workers. There are very few solo genetic counseling practices out there that don’t involve some other member of the healthcare team.

18:53 – Insight Medical Genetics’ ambition is to make access to genetic counseling services easier and more available to everyone.

19:50 – The different places in our lives when we might reach out for genetic counseling.

20:38 – More and more, we are meeting with individuals who already had some genetic testing done so that we can help them make sense of the results.

20:50 – We also love working with patients prior to testing … to go over benefits and limitations and detection rates.

23:10 – The information from carrier screening is something you can get before you even conceive.

23:36 – The difference between direct-to-consumer tests and the tests available to genetic professionals.

25:00 – What people learn about their family history.

25:38 – We take a very detailed family history and are trained in what questions to ask to help flush out conditions that might have a single gene cause vs. conditions where perhaps single-gene testing is not currently available.

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