Date of Award

5-2021

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

MS in Human Genetics

First Advisor

Janelle Villiers

Abstract

The genetic counseling profession admitted to its lack of diversification more than 3 decades ago. However, even with the combined efforts of the profession’s top organizations, the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC), the Association of Genetic Counseling Program Directors (AGCPD), and their members, the status of more than 90% homogenous majority workforce has persisted. It is judicious for the genetic counseling profession to rectify the inequity and unfairness aimed at discounted underrepresented groups within its own profession. Since the NSGC prioritized diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues in 2019, multiple studies have focused on revealing the barriers interfering with achieving diversity in the genetic counseling profession. Notably missing from this research are the voices of the applicants from underrepresented groups (URGs). We aimed to survey those applicants to identify their experienced barriers during the application process and their proposed prospects for improving their representation. We found that most respondents reported that costs incurred and tuition (93.2%), finding shadowing and internship opportunities (59.3%), and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE; 55.9%) as major barriers. They also identified obstacles such as lack of access to networking and a misconception on the part of the training programs regarding URGs’ non-competitiveness in science. We devised a set of recommendations based on the respondents’ suggestions and our research and analysis that included offering more financial support, reducing GRE restrictions, decreasing emphasis on shadowing, establishing a partnership with the Minority Genetic Professionals Network (MGPN), integrating program faculty and supervisors in DEI-certified training, and implementing standardized DEI courses in all training programs.

Under author imposed embargo.
Available for download on Monday, May 30, 2022

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