Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

MS Human Genetics


Human Genetics Graduate Program


The field of genetic counseling as a whole significantly lacks ethnic diversity within the ranks of their prospective students and trained professionals. This article describes the importance of understanding underrepresented minorities’ (URM’s) experiences and how their stories can be used to better implement recruitment techniques. In this qualitative study, five practicing genetic counselors and three genetic counseling students who identified as African-American and/or Latino participated in a structured phone interview. These interviews were aimed at better understanding their introduction into the field, their experiences in their training program, and their experiences in the profession. Themes that were explored include: learning about genetic counseling, barriers experienced, being an URM in a training program, motivating factors, and family support/mentors. Introduction to the field was often later in college. Majority of the participants expressed unconditional family support when pursing genetic counseling as a career. As an URM, participants often experienced feelings of isolation due to their minority status. None of the participants had access to a role model/mentor/advisor of the same ethnic background and several expressed a desire to have a role model from the same or similar background. Participants also reported some instances of feeling misunderstood by faculty due to stereotypes related to race. Possible URM recruitment initiatives involving biographies featured on a website are discussed.