By Holly Zimmerman, MS, CGC, program director for genetic counseling
I literally screamed when I read the email. It said, “The Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling is pleased to grant Accredited New Program status to the genetic counseling program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center effective January 31, 2019.”
Our program is a unique partnership between the College of Allied Health Professions, the Munroe-Meyer Institute, and several community partners. We have all of these amazing resources and experiences to support a premier education program for our students. Throughout the planning process, it has been clear that genetic counselors are valued at UNMC and throughout Nebraska. I credit this to my genetic counseling colleagues who have worked hard to provide exceptional patient care and provider education. They are the reason our profession has a solid reputation here in Nebraska.
My favorite quote about our field is from Emeline Davoine, a French geneticist: “A genetic counselor is like air conditioning. When you do not have it, you do not realize you are missing it, but when you have it, you cannot live without it.” Universities, clinics, hospitals, laboratories, and companies are realizing that they cannot live without genetic counseling. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth rate of 29 percent for genetic counseling positions through 2026. Coincidentally, a recent professional survey showed that about 87% of genetic counselors accept a position before graduation.
That’s impressive! If you are reading this wondering what a genetic counselor does, we are genetics experts who provide information and support to families and even to providers. We are translators of genetic information and truly enjoy teaching others. We are now finding our genetic knowledge and education skills extremely useful in more and more settings. This includes partnering with specialties like oncology, cardiology, and neurology as well as working with insurance companies.
Clearly, I love my field and cannot wait to share that passion with our students. This accreditation update means our first class will officially start this fall, which is exactly 50 years after the first genetic counseling class started at Sarah Lawrence in 1969. I wonder what we will look like in 50 years!