Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Reflections on Graduation

The curtain is closing on another year’s graduation season. I’m sure many of you have attended some parties or commencement ceremonies for nieces, nephews, children, or children of family friends. I was privileged to be invited to both of the graduation celebrations for the two inaugural genetic counseling classes from the training programs at Stanford University and California State University-Stanislaus. These were momentous occasions for them and for genetic counseling; the leadership of both programs worked persistently to achieve a vision, and the presence of training programs in the San Francisco Bay Area, a center of biotechnology, is strategic and influential.

In looking at the graduates’ faces, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own graduation day. The most vivid recollection I had is of the emotions: anxiety over whether I was really ready to see patients on my own, sadness over parting paths with my classmates, pride as I introduced my family to my student life, and excitement as I daydreamed of accomplishing great things.

What’s remarkable is that today, as the President of the NSGC, I feel that same mix of emotions. When I stop to think about the many activities the NSGC is pursuing it is not only exciting but dizzying:

• The NSGC is now a thought leader on public policy around genetics issues as exemplified by the US House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee reaching out to us as it began its investigation of genetic testing companies.

• As a result of our prompt press release after Walgreens’ announcement of offering DTC genetic testing at local pharmacies, NSGC was mentioned by at least 47 media outlets nationwide; many of you enhanced the power of the message by working with your local media to include the genetic counseling voice.

• The Public Policy Committee is proactively writing a position statement on regulation of genetic testing, and we are providing feedback to the NIH on its plans to create a Genetic Testing Registry. (See the March 19 entry of the Public Policy Blog at for more details.)

•The NSGC website re-design headed by the Communications Committee is moving along beautifully and according to plan.

• The Service Delivery Model Task Force will shortly be launching a critical survey to the membership to address the concerns around a shortage of genetic counselors.

• The Practice Guidelines Subcommittee is churning out proposals on a regular basis.

• Efforts to expand state licensure and introduce federal legislation to amend Medicare regulations to recognize genetic counselors as providers continue to chip away at barriers to access.

• The 2010 Professional Status Survey analysis is nearing completion and targeted for release in the coming weeks.

• An Environmental Scanning Task Force is proactively assessing trends in genetics and healthcare to help guide next year’s long-term strategic planning.

• The Education Committee launched a pilot of an innovative webinar program to expand members choices of educational programs.

There are so many more, I can’t possibly list them all. It is thrilling to see them take shape and succeed.

I experience other emotions too, as I watch colleagues drift in and out of involvement with the NSGC and worry whether we are adequately addressing the future risks to our patients. However, when I stop long enough to think about how much we have accomplished, my pride in the NSGC and in our profession is almost overwhelming. We don’t just aspire to be thought leaders; we ARE leaders in the genomic era.