Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

MS in Human Genetics

First Advisor

Caroline Lieber

Second Advisor

Chantal Duteau Buck


It has been 52 years since the first class of genetic counselors in the United States graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and entered into the medical profession. The determination and spearheading mentality the first generations of genetic counselors had for their patients and proved to their colleagues is the apparent and undeniable reason they are referred to as ‘pioneers’. The aim of this study was to capture and preserve the early history of our still-young field of genetic counseling. The content was gathered via five group interviews of eleven individuals total and thirteen questionnaire submissions to represent the pioneering generation of genetic counseling. Our results demonstrated that these pioneers met both challenge and opportunity with tenacity, insight, and collaboration, enabling the profession to rapidly grow and evolve over the past half-century. Moments like the separation from the American Board of Medical Genetics and subsequent formation of the American Board of Genetic Counseling was the crucible in which the future of genetic counseling blossomed. It placed the ability to chart the course and direction of this field into our own hands. This agency is crucial in facing the current and future challenges that will shape this field. Change is our constant across generations and adaptation is necessary. While the demands we face have changed, this agency, sense of community, and pioneering mentality are traits that have and can continue to serve us in achieving greater heights.