Saturday, December 31, 2011

Farewell 2011…Welcome 2012!

What a wonderful, crazy busy, and exciting year we have had! To name only a few of our accomplishments, we’ve met with payers to discuss recognition of genetic counselors and reimbursement for our services, we’ve developed and published practice guidelines establishing ourselves as experts in providing optimal care, and we have 31 states in varied positions of pursuing or issuing state licenses! We have conducted several meetings on Capitol Hill with key members of Congress and congressional committees in an effort to garner support and provide education in pursuit of our legislation recognizing genetic counselors as independent healthcare providers. We’ve created position statements on important issues about which NSGC must have a position or take a stand. We’ve launched tool kits to aid genetic counselors in our self-marketing efforts and continued efforts to promote NSGC’s brand. Our education efforts have been extraordinary, cutting edge and technologically advanced; offering opportunities for all members and resulting in the largest, most successful AEC we’ve ever held!

So what’s in store for 2012? Our new rolling strategic plan, focusing on Access, promoting our Value, and addressing Workforce issues, will be put into action this year. We will continue in our efforts to achieve payer recognition at the state and national levels while demonstrating that genetic counselors are cost effective and efficient patient care providers. We will also demonstrate and promote the value of genetic counseling performed by genetic counselors. And as the demand for genetic counseling services by genetic counselors increases, we will develop workforce recommendations allowing us to meet these demands.

As you can see, we have accomplished so much, but have more to do! “Thank you” to all of you for your hard work on behalf of your organization, profession, and colleagues. You are incredibly talented, creative, and tireless and have brought us to where we are today. Keep up the good work!

It has been a privilege and honor for me to be our organization’s spokesperson in 2011. I have truly loved being involved in every aspect of our organization’s goals and initiatives and representing our incredible profession. It has been wonderful meeting and getting to know so many of you, our outstanding dynamic volunteers, who inspired me every step along the way. Thank you for the opportunity and making this a memorable experience.

Now it is time to turn the reins over to our 2012 president, Brenda Finucane. She will have her hands full with leading us in our 2012 initiatives and is well equipped to take on these charges. Brenda is inspiring, energetic, and charismatic and will lead us gracefully and boldly into the New Year!
Happy new year to all, and please join me in welcoming Brenda!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Attend the Late Breaking Session at the AEC!

Attend the Late Breaking Information Plenary: “Non-Invasive Prenatal Diagnosis: Clinical and Ethical Implications for Genetic Counselors.” While on first glance this is a prenatal topic, this session is important for EVEYRONE!

Last summer when we began discussions about a topic for the Late Breaking Session, I wasn’t sure that the Non-invasive Prenatal Diagnosis (NIPD) topic was one pertinent to all of our members, including me. I’ve never done prenatal counseling and my knowledge of the specialty is embarrassingly limited. In fact, during my first pregnancy when I was exploring prenatal testing options with my MFM, a colleague and friend, I knew so little she shook her head and said with a smile, “Thank God you’re not teaching my class [of GC students]!” So, if your prenatal knowledge is limited, you are not alone.

However, as I’ve learned more about NIPD in the last months, I’ve realized this topic is not only applicable to prenatal genetic counselors, it’s important for all of us. The technology may initially have a large impact on prenatal counselors’ practice as more patients may opt to pursue non-invasive testing. The patients, as well as the community OBs ordering the testing, may not know how to interpret the results they receive. Therefore, I expect prenatal counselors will definitely be busy. But the integration of NIPD as a potential standard of care in OB offices (and I’m making a lot of assumptions here) would impact our entire profession. All genetic counselors need to think through potential issues and implications for our profession. We need to explore questions such as: What are the pros and cons of this new technology? What are the risk and benefits to patients and families? What new aspects of genetic counseling practice will emerge? Will genetic counselors in other specialties be offering this reproductive option to families at risk for single gene disorders? How will genetic counselors be perceived by the community as we counsel patients about disorders identified by NIPD? Will we be seen as the experts to whom patients should obtain up to date and balanced information, or will we be seen as proponents of early prenatal diagnosis to eliminate “undesirable” diagnoses? What opportunities exist for genetic counselors to promote themselves as resources for physicians and patients as this technology is put into use?

What a long list of questions for us to ponder and explore together! Please join us at the Late Breaking Plenary Session on Sunday morning, October 30, at 8:30 am to discuss the implications of this topic for our profession as a whole as well the impact to your practice and specialty. Dr. Wayne Grody will provide an introduction and overview of the basic technology and its applications, Kelly Ormond, MS, CGC, will discuss the clinical and ethical aspects of the technology, and Patricia Devers, MS, CGC, will moderate a discussion with the speakers and audience. Additionally, if you are interested in learning more about the development of NIPD and the technology behind it, please attend the EBS on Friday afternoon at 1:00pm.

We look forward to seeing you soon in San Diego!

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!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Genetic Alliance Day on the Hill and Annual Conference: A Wonderful Experience for Genetic Counselors

During this busy summer, I have spent some time traveling to different meetings. In late June, I was lucky to represent NSGC at the Genetic Alliance’s Day on the Hill as well as their Annual Conference.

During the Day on the Hill our task was to visit with legislator’s staff members and educate them on legislative issues of great importance to the Genetic Alliance, advocacy groups, healthcare providers, and patients and their family members. We were organized into regional groups with an experienced leader from the Genetic Alliance and met with staff members of Congressmen from our regions. We were coached and guided on talking points about the key issues by our well versed group leaders. Like many of you, I had never been to the offices of our legislators and was nervous and excited to see where the “action” of our government takes place. I was especially excited to contribute, even in a small amount, to those actions. My group leader was NSGC Past President Diane Baker who was a fabulous mentor. She showed us how to present the information in concise yet complete summaries and when possible bring in examples of how legislator’s constituents could be affected by these bills. I had the opportunity to also let these staff members know that NSGC is in the process of introducing a bill to amend the Social Security Act to allow genetic counselors to be billable healthcare providers under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

During the Day on the Hill, I learned much about some important issues that we need to open our legislators’ eyes to, and I also learned not to be intimidated or anxious about approaching these individuals with our issues. They need us to provide background and information about these issues in order to cast a meaningful vote. Legislators want to hear from us and were gracious and interested in our issues. Our legislators need you to tell them what is important to you, your organization, and your patients and families!

During the Genetic Alliance conference I was a member of a panel in a symposium titled, “Services Day.” The purpose of this workshop was for participants to come away with action items for how to collaborate and advocate across communities, conditions, and state lines. As a result we will all be better prepared to forge the future for services centered on the health and wellbeing of families. An exceptional group of presenters on a wide variety of topics resulted in this being an uplifting, inspiring day. As a pediatric genetic counselor, I learned much in terms of available services, contacts for the families with whom I work, and possible improved clinic models. I chastised myself for not attending this conference in the past –the greater number of patients I could have supported with this information if I’d been attending and learning from this conference for so many years! I also had the opportunity to educate conference participants on what genetic counselors do and some of the services we provide.

Participating in the Genetic Alliance conference events was a wonderful opportunity for me to represent NSGC and genetic counselors and to learn from the other individuals at the conference. I would encourage all genetic counselors to attend the Genetic Alliance conference and to participate in a Day on the Hill through the Genetic Alliance or another organization, at least once in your career.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Update from the Genetic Counseling Advanced Degree Task Force

The update below is a guest post from the Genetic Counseling Advanced Degree Task Force.

The Genetic Counseling Advanced Degree Task Force (GCADTF), with representatives from the American Board of Genetic Counseling, the Association of Genetic Counseling Program Directors, the Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors Certification Board, the Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors, and the National Society of Genetic Counselors, held its second meeting on May 25th. As reported previously, this group is tasked with exploring the potential benefits and limitations of an advanced clinical degree in genetic counseling, including the Clinical Doctorate. Since the last announcement in March, the GCADTF has been unable to identify resources that would allow for the original proposal of hosting a summit focused on this topic. Therefore the GCADTF developed a lower cost means of educating our various members using a Webinar format. This is a complicated issue and it is vital that there be a knowledgeable discussion among our members.

The Webinar, tentatively planned for later this summer, will spell out several issues that must be considered if a profession chooses to move to a Clinical Doctorate degree. It will include information about issues relevant to students contemplating the genetic counseling profession, practicing genetic counselors, training programs and more. The Webinar will be hosted more than once so that ideally everyone who wishes to participate will be able to do so. In addition, we plan for:

1. Brief facilitated discussions to follow each Webinar where there will be an opportunity to submit comments.
2. An on-line survey for comments to be posted after each Webinar.
3. Additional electronic forums where interested stakeholders can submit comments.

Watch for further announcements and be part of this very important conversation!

Of course if you have any questions, feel free to contact a GCADTF representative!

Debra Lochner Doyle, MS, CGC (ABGC)
Holly Peay, MS, CGC (ABGC)
Sheila O'Neal (ABGC)

Jaspreet Sekhon-Warren, MS, CGC (CAGC)
Stephanie Kieffer, MS, CGC (CAGC Certification Board)

Jennifer Fitzpatrick, MS, CGC (AGCPD – Canadian Programs)
Casey Reiser, MS, CGC (AGCPD)
Laura Conway, MS, PhD CGC (AGCPD)
Carol Walton MS, CGC (AGCPD)

Karin Dent, MS, CGC (NSGC)
Brenda Finucane, MS, CGC (NSGC)
Meghan Carey (NSGC)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Next Match Phase for the Mentor Program

Submitted by Emily Malouf and Kaylene Ready on behalf of the Mentor Program Sub-committee of NSGC’s Membership Committee

As the current Mentor Phase of the Mentor Program comes to a close, Megan Grove, a graduate student and mentee in the program, shares this about her experience:

“Participating in the mentor program has been a fantastic experience. Whether she was providing me with examples of personal genetic counseling experiences, lending advice or tips with regard to important milestones in training and beyond, or simply being someone I could talk to and debrief with; my mentor has been an incredible supporter and teacher. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this program, and have learned a lot in the process!”

Next month brings another opportunity for NSGC members to participate in a mentoring relationship:
The NSGC Membership Committee announces the next match phase for the Mentor Program begins in June 2011.

The program is designed to enhance networking opportunities for the NSGC’s members, for both students and practicing genetic counselors. Mentors can offer support, guidance, and insight while mentees can seek advice from peers, learn about a new specialty, and network professionally. Mentees can choose from a variety of selection criteria to find a mentor who best meets their needs and self-match to a mentor through an online matching website. Discussion topics are also provided on a monthly basis to facilitate continued communication.

While having a mentor through the Mentor Program is valuable for genetic counseling students and new graduates, it also has been a great resource for working genetic counselors wanting guidance in their current role, starting a new position, or considering a specialty change.

Mentors have also benefited from participating in a mentoring relationship. For busy counselors who are uncertain about the benefit of serving as a mentor, consider Holly Zimmerman’s experience:

“Being a mentor gives you the opportunity to reflect on your own career and experiences as well as the chance to renew your passion for the profession through the enthusiasm of someone new entering the field. I have thoroughly enjoyed mentoring a first year student and hearing her sincere excitement as she journeys through her training to become a genetic counselor."

If you are ready to get involved in the Mentor Program, mentor sign-up begins June 1, 2011 and mentee sign-up begins June 16, 2011! Mentors and mentees of all ages, years of experience and areas of specialty are needed to make the Program a success. The time commitment for participation can be as short as four months or as long as twelve months, and mentors and mentees will decide how often they will contact one another. Look for e-Blasts in June announcing enrollment periods.

To join the NSGC Mentor Program, please visit

Thursday, May 12, 2011

NSGC's New Discussion Forums

This is a guest post from NSGC Communications Committee Chair, Amy Sturm.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am the current Chair of the NSGC Communications Committee. One of the Committee’s unofficial charges this year was to head up the transition from the current NSGC listservs to a newer technology called Discussion Forums. We established the Discussion Forums Task Force after the AEC in late Fall 2010, and have been working since then to learn how the forums work, test their functionality, and develop Frequently Asked Questions and How To’s Documents for the NSGC membership. These resource documents are now on the NSGC website under Member Center after you log in:
Task Force members also recently recorded short webinars to guide members through topics including how to navigate the forums, set your own personal forum settings, receive messages in digest format if preferred, post and reply to forums, include attachments, search forums, and other enhanced features. These webinars are also live on the NSGC website under Member Center.

I have to admit, at first I wasn’t sure what to expect from forum technology, since I had never used forums previously to using the NSGC forums. My husband frequents forums daily, such as, in order to search for the best online deals, coupons, and discounts on computer equipment among many other products; however he also works in the field of Information Technology, so I wasn’t immediately convinced that forums would work for me. I am a member of five NSGC SIGs and also receive the general NSGC listserv, so receiving listserv messages in digest format is very important to me as well as easy posting and replying capabilities!

Luckily, I found out that the new forums technology is not all that different from the current listservs that we have all become accustomed to over the years. For example, if you choose to subscribe to an individual forum, such as a SIG-specific forum (e.g. Cardiovascular Genetics SIG Forum), you will automatically receive all new posts and replies to that forum in your email’s Inbox. You can also sign up for daily or weekly digests if this is more manageable for you compared to receiving each post and reply as an individual email.

Another very nice feature of the forums is something called “threaded topics”. This means that all posts and replies to that initial post are organized together under something called a discussion thread. This allows for a very organized view of forum topics and improved ease of tracking and being able to follow the conversation.

While the archives from the current listserv, which date back to 2006, will no longer be accessible, please remember that you will be able to post a new topic to the Discussion Forums at any time and receive responses from your NSGC colleagues with the most up-to-date information. The deadline to access the current archives will be extended to June 30, 2011. Please refer all questions to the Executive Office at