Dr. Sheetal Sharda, Senior Consultant in Clinical Genetics, MedGenome Labs Ltd.
Genetic and genomics are slowly becoming routine in clinical practices across the world and in India. Doctors are increasingly relying on genetic tests to help in the diagnosis and also the management of patients with a genetic disorder. But genetics is a complex subject, and the field is evolving quickly with new information emerging at a fast pace. Doctors must constantly update themselves with the latest information and patients also need to understand the results of the test.
Genetic counsellors act as a crucial bridge between the patient, the doctor and the genetic testing lab. Genetic counselling is a communicative process, by which the Consultand (one seeking consultation) and their families are informed about the genetic basis of their disorder, its inheritance pattern and the chances of it happening again in future generations. They are guided through available testing options based on current scientific evidence to choose a course of action in view of their family goals, ethical and religious standards.
The emergence of genetic and genomic technology has given significant importance to a rewarding career option in the role of a Genetic Counsellor. The life of a Genetic Counsellor can be very interesting since they are health care professionals, with an education / training in Medical Genetics and Genetic Counselling. They offer guidance about the genetic condition, along with information about the tests available for early diagnosis and thus help an individual or a couple to take an informed decision, also providing social and psychological support to the affected family.
Genetic Counselling is a combination of science and art. Along with the basic and advanced understanding of a complex subject like Medical Genetics, the counsellors need to have the art of communication and psychology to address concerns of the person seeking guidance. Along with the financial burden, there is a lot of emotional trauma associated with genetic disorders which needs compassionate hearing and long term follow up and communication. An empathetic attitude and an aptitude to simplify the jargon of medical genetics, are crucial for a genetic counsellor.
Genetic counsellors help the patients by bridging the gap between the busy physicians, who prescribe these tests, and the genomic laboratories who give the results. The scope of genetic counselling in the current era of genomics and information technology cannot be under emphasized.