Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is offering a new master’s program in genetic counseling, a field that has been growing in importance as genetic testing becomes more common. Patients are gaining access to more and more information about their genes and genetic risk of disease, and consequently, the demand for trained genetic counselors is on the rise. Such experts help patients understand genetic test results and what it may mean for them and their families.
The first round of applications for the program is due Dec. 15. Classes will begin in fall 2021.
“There is a shortage of genetic counselors nationally, and at the same time, the amount of genetic testing that patients undergo has continued to rise,” said Patricia Dickson, MD, the Centennial Professor of Pediatrics and director of the Division of Medical Genetics and Genomics. “We’re excited to have an accredited genetic counseling program in our state and in St. Louis to help fill that need. It’s going to have tremendous benefits for people in our region who need genetic testing.”
Having a genetic counseling training program at Washington University will support the School of Medicine’s precision medicine initiative, complementing the university’s leadership in genetics and genomics research and helping translate those discoveries into improving patient care.
“With the advent of personalized genetic testing, the need for genetic counselors exploded,” said associate program director Tomi Toler, a certified genetic counselor and an instructor in pediatrics. “Patients need help understanding genetic test results and the impact they can have on their care. Genetic counselors also can help coordinate additional testing for family members, when appropriate.”
Genetic counselors often work with cancer patients, expectant parents and parents of young children who may have been diagnosed with inherited genetic conditions.