Increased awareness about hereditary disorders has led to an indispensable requirement of genetic counselling services in the country. M.Y.O.D. looks at this emerging career
Genetic counsellors besides providing information about hereditary diseases, give supportive counselling to families and help them cope with the emotional and psychological turmoil. With nearly 5% of the human population susceptible to inherited disorders which are not apparent during the infant stage, genetic counselling becomes important in order to prevent the probability of developing or transmitting it.
The Human Genome Project in 2003 and various other initiatives undertaken in the health sector have increased the role of genetic counselling both in scope and importance. Counsellors can now serve as educators and resource people for other health care professionals and for the general public too. They can take non-traditional roles which includes working for genetic companies and laboratories.
Genetic counsellors act as patient advocates as well as genetic resources to physicians. They are majorly responsible for providing information and support to families who may be at risk of inheriting some genetic disorder. Analysing inheritance patterns and risks of recurrence, genetic counsellors help to not only identify the risks but also review available genetic testing options for the patient. The purpose of such counselling is to increase the understanding of genetic diseases and thereafter explain their risks.
Training and advancement
An undergraduate degree in biology, genetics or psychology followed with an MSc/BTech/MTech degree in life sciences in first class division is the ideal route.
Career opportunities and job roles
Clinical - working in hospitals, private practice or as an independent consultant.
Diagnostic laboratories - being a mediator between the diagnostic laboratory and physicians.
Education and public policy - teaching and advising companies.
Research – working as a study coordinator for genetic research projects.
It varies depending on the job profile and the sector one works for. A private practitioner or a professional working for a private hospital can earn upwards of Rs. 50,000 per month while someone working for a government department can earn upwards of Rs. 25 – 40,000 per month.
Guru Nanak Dev University, Punjab; The Oxford College of Science, Bangalore; National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Bangalore; Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow are few of the prominent medical colleges offering different graduate and post-graduate courses. While the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Sir Gangaram Hospital, Delhi conduct short-term courses.
Dr. Madhulika Kabra, Additional Professor and Officer-in-Charge, Genetics Unit, Department of Pediatrics, AIIMS says, “Genetic counselling is increasingly becoming popular in India. It has a wide scope in terms of its application. From pre-natal diagnosis to identifying birth defects, it offers a wide range of employment opportunities besides the traditional setting of a hospital.”