Genetic Counseling

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Genetic counseling is a relatively new career that is becoming more common as more people become aware of genetics. With the boom of new genetic information there is a greater need for professionals who can explain medical jargon to people in need of practical information about genetic risks. "Every time a gene has been discovered, families are impacted and they turn to genetic counselors,"� says Holly Ishmael, a genetic counselor who works at Children's Mercy Hospital. Genetic counseling is "a perfect combination for people who want to do something science-orientated, but need human contact and can't sit still in a lab and do lab work or have their nose in a book. It is a really good job for people like that,"� Ishmael said.

Genetic counselors work as part of a health-care team to provide information and support to families with birth defects or genetic disorders, those at risk for inherited conditions, and those with a history of cancer, learning disabilities, mental retardation, hearing or visual impairment.

Women with a history of multiple miscarriages, stillbirths or early infant deaths and women who are over 34 years of age who are pregnant or want to plan a pregnancy may also seek help from a genetic counselor.

In 1975, The American Society of Human Genetics defined genetic counseling. The specific details a trained person should be able to do is (1) comprehend the medical facts, including the diagnosis, probable course of the disorder, and the available management; (2) appreciate the way heredity contributes to the disorder, and the risk of recurrence in specified relatives; (3) understand the alternatives for dealing with the risk of recurrence; (4) choose the course of action that seems appropriate in view of their risk, their family goals, and their ethical and religious standards, and to act in...