Friday, September 30, 2011

Why go to the AEC? What’s in it for you?

A few years ago I was speaking with a genetic counselor colleague about attending the NSGC Annual Education Conference (AEC). She stated that because she is so specialized perhaps the AEC was no longer a good fit for her as there were only a couple of sessions in her area. She felt she could gain additional education and CEUs at conferences focused only on her area of specialization. I was surprised at her comment because to me, the AEC is so much more than genetics education.

NSGC’s AEC is certainly focused on continuing genetics and genetic counseling education. As I browse our preliminary program, among other topics, I see sessions and presentations focused on gastric and prostate cancer, utilization of information technology, exploration of new technologies, and analysis of genetic information contributing to health behaviors. It is clear there are educational programs available to genetic counselors in all walks of life and specialty.

Our conference certainly prioritizes genetics science and counseling education and some of this content is available at other conferences. But what is absolutely unique about our AEC is that it provides all of this education and also includes significant content specific to the growth and professional development of genetic counselors. What exactly do I mean? Let me explain it with another question: If I am an experienced genetic counselor who can counsel a family on a multitude of different conditions, but I cannot effectively communicate the importance of genetic counselor licensure as well as the need to be an independent provider to my hospital credentialing committee, I am not able to promote myself and other genetic counselors as experienced professionals and critical members of the healthcare team. All my genetics knowledge will not help me, or anyone else, in that arena. As a result, I would not be contributing to the growth and development of the profession of genetic counseling within my institution and more broadly. I not only want to be a “good” genetic counselor, but I want to have broad knowledge of my profession and the issues facing us so that I am a “whole” or well-rounded genetics professional. The AEC is the only educational setting where we can obtain these professional development opportunities.

This year I encourage you to expand your attention at the AEC to not only the clinical and counseling content offered during the Plenary Sessions, Contributed Papers, Educational Breakout Sessions and posters, but also to the content focused on issues facing our profession. Come to the State of the Society, the NSGC and ABGC Business Meetings, the Professional Issues Panel and the Late Breaking Information Session. These sessions are important in that they highlight the activities of genetic counselors and your professional society in legislative and public policy efforts as well as provide information about upcoming professional issues and challenges. The goal of these sessions is to prepare you, as a genetic counselor, to deal with these issues in your practice and as a representative of your profession.

In addition to providing education about the science of genetics and further development of counseling expertise, our AEC is a gathering place for us as the unique professionals we are. No other educational conference can offer the educational programs tailored to our special skills and interests while also contributing to your professional development as a genetic counselor. And that’s what’s in it for you at the NSGC AEC!