Friday, May 21, 2010

Finding Our Unique Perspective

On May 20, 2010, the NSGC Board voted to approve a revised version of the NSGC’s Reproductive Freedom Position Statement. The decision marks the end of many months of discussion by a group of volunteers that formed the Reproductive Freedom Task Force, which was created by the Public Policy Committee to address questions from the membership about the appropriateness of the previous statement.

I want to personally thank the members of the Task Force for their service. They tackled a difficult subject that is central to many genetic counselors’ daily responsibilities. The Task Force consisted of five members selected for diversity of practice setting and variety of personal beliefs on the subject of abortion. They began by developing key questions that the NSGC should answer regarding whether the original statement should be retired, affirmed, or revised and openly and respectfully shared not only their personal views but their views of how reproductive options fit into the responsibilities of clinical genetic counselors. They consistently returned to the central questions about the unique perspective of genetic counselors and the common ground that all genetic counselors have in relation to reproductive options.

I was fortunate to accompany the Task Force along portions of their journey, as I observed several of their discussions. I was incredibly impressed by their professionalism, respect for each other’s diverse points of view, and commitment to representing the needs of all patients who seek or might seek genetic counseling. Several participants commented that their own thinking had evolved on the subject as a result of the in-depth, open discussion.

The Task Force concluded that the NSGC should have a statement on reproductive freedom because genetic counselors play a significant role in the reproductive choices that patients make, but the previous statement did not reflect the full spectrum of reproductive options that patients consider in the context of genetic counseling. We received many comments back from the membership during the comment period, and the responses were mostly positive. Some edits were made to the proposed statement based on comments from members.

Thank you again to the Task Force and to the many members who took the time to provide feedback to them. I’m very proud to represent a profession that can tackle a difficult issue with professionalism, respect, and above all, a commitment to the patients we serve.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Show me the Money: Expanding the NSGC’s Resources

Like many other members of the NSGC, I decided to become a genetic counselor because I was fascinated by how genetics impacted families and wanted to help people understand and integrate genetic information into their lives. In school and in my work, I focused on how to best educate and support my patients rather than on how to justify my position to my institution or how genetic services fit into the economics of healthcare.

After attending business school, that’s all changed. I pursued an MBA because I believed pragmatic business skills would be needed to integrate genetics into mainstream medicine. This pragmatism includes evaluating revenue and expenses whenever I face a decision – even when that decision includes significant emotional factors. For example, I didn’t buy a hybrid car until after I had built a spreadsheet to evaluate the long-term savings on gas in light of the higher price of the car. (For those of you who are wondering, you have to place at least some value on just being “green” because you won’t get your money back from gas savings alone.)

The NSGC Board recently voted to modify our strategic plan to incorporate a focus on revenue generation. We have always been very conscious of expenses and conservative in financial commitments and savings, but as an organization, we have not evaluated all opportunities to bring in dollars. Expanding our resources will be critical to growing the profession. We need to invest in promotion of the profession, activities to support and influence public policy that protects our patients, and evaluation of new roles for genetic counselors. We will continue to consider all sides of a proposal for benefits and risks as we always have; we are simply adding revenue as a benefit.

Still, at times, we will naturally question why it isn’t simply better to move forward with a program for the enrichment of the public or betterment of society. And, at times, we will be right. At other times, we need to think about the many patients and doctors we CAN’T reach with our current programs – what about them? What could this free program look like if we had better resources? Think of a world where we are not so dependent upon membership dues and AEC registration fees and then ask whether revenue is an appropriate goal. Ultimately, the NSGC wants more patients to have access to the valuable services genetic counselors provide.