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Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 438–451 | Cite as

Public Health Genetic Counselors: Activities, Skills, and Sources of Learning

  • Kirsty M. McWalterEmail author
  • Mallory R. Sdano
  • Gaurav Dave
  • Karen P. Powell
  • Nancy Callanan
Original Research

Abstract

Specialization within genetic counseling is apparent, with 29 primary specialties listed in the National Society of Genetic Counselors’ 2012 Professional Status Survey (PSS). PSS results show a steady proportion of genetic counselors primarily involved in public health, yet do not identify all those performing public health activities. Little is known about the skills needed to perform activities outside of “traditional” genetic counselor roles and the expertise needed to execute those skills. This study aimed to identify genetic counselors engaging in public health activities, the skills used, and the most influential sources of learning for those skills. Participants (N = 155) reported involvement in several public health categories: (a) Education of Public and/or Health Care Providers (n = 80, 52 %), (b) Population-Based Screening Programs (n = 70, 45 %), (c) Lobbying/Public Policy (n = 62, 40 %), (d) Public Health Related Research (n = 47, 30 %), and (e) State Chronic Disease Programs (n = 12, 8 %). Regardless of category, “on the job” was the most common primary source of learning. Genetic counseling training program was the most common secondary source of learning. Results indicate that the number of genetic counselors performing public health activities is likely higher than PSS reports, and that those who may not consider themselves “public health genetic counselors” do participate in public health activities. Genetic counselors learn a diverse skill set in their training programs; some skills are directly applicable to public health genetics, while other public health skills require additional training and/or knowledge.

Keywords

Public health genetics Public health activities Public health skills Genetic counseling Sources of learning 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This project was completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the second author’s Master of Science degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and was partially funded by the NSGC PHSIG. Thank you to Joseph Telfair, Dr. Ph, MSW who provided his expertise in survey design and to the genetic counselors who piloted this survey. A very special thanks to all the participants who completed the survey.

Conflict Of Interest

Authors Kirsty M. McWalter, Mallory R. Sdano, Gaurav Dave, Karen P. Powell and Nancy Callanan declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human Studies and Informed Consent

All procedures performed involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standardsof the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its lateramendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants includedin the study.

Animal Studies

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (Outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kirsty M. McWalter
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mallory R. Sdano
    • 2
  • Gaurav Dave
    • 3
  • Karen P. Powell
    • 4
  • Nancy Callanan
    • 5
  1. 1.Genetics Program, Hawaii Department of HealthHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Lineagen Inc.Salt Lake CityUSA
  3. 3.NC TraCS InstituteUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.Cone Cancer Center, Cone Health SystemGreensboroUSA
  5. 5.The Genetic Counseling ProgramThe University of North Carolina at GreensboroGreensboroUSA

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