I think this is a great topic. Well written Allie. I was in the majority in voting "yes" for a name change. I don't feel I am a counsellor or a geneticist. I do feel comfortable with calling myself an educator, a clinician, an advocate and a specialist. To get more specific a genetic educator, genetic clinician, genetic advocate and genetic specialist. Genetic clinician, I like the way that sounds the most. A GC - nice, familiar ring.
This really is a difficult question. I too am not sure that a change of name is what we need, but agree totally that more publicity about the profession is essential.
Certainly we are a very small profession and most people haven't heard of us, unless they've been a patient and this applies across the globe.
I do however agree that exploring the possibility of a professional name change is a good idea.
In fact, the idea of asking professionals and patients what they think will address both issues: inclusion as well as education/raising of awareness.
I say let's do just that.
Thank you for all the comments and suggestions. At least we are starting the process. Let's not stop now, but keep up the momentum and keep talking :*)
As Gill D said we had many discussions about the title earlier this year and agreed that it might be time for a change. As pointed out this is a challenge!! I look forward to the discussions.
When someone asks what work I do I usually respond 'I work in the genetics department'. Because the reply 'do my genes need counselling' (as said by Kayla above) I've heard one too many times. It's either that or the blank stare and change of subject because the person you are talking to has no idea what a genetic counselor is.
Repeatedly, I've had patients decline appointments with 'I just want the test, not all the counseling stuff'.
I'm not sure a change of name is what we need, but more publicity about the profession. The CAGC is doing a fantastic job, but the reality is, we are a very small profession. Most people haven't heard of us, unless they've been a patient.
Rachel V- you said exactly what I was thinking!
This is an interesting question. As a genetic counselling student in South Africa, I raised this question earlier this year. Other professionals, eg. engineers, are known as electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, chemical engineers and so on...They are all engineers, but their specific type of engineering is defined by the adjective in front. So are we geneticists first or counsellors first? Are we in the same class as molecular geneticists, population geneticists, medical geneticists... or are we counsellors, as in family counsellors, addiction counsellors, marriage counsellors?
In South Africa, the word "counsellor" is used by many people who have a short diploma in counselling and is not seen to indicate any type of a degree, least of all a masters degree. Psychologists call themselves counselling psychologists, educational psychologists etc.
So my suggestion is "counselling geneticist". What do you think?
I commend you, Allie, for broaching such an important but thorny issue.
Through trial and error, I've learned that lay people I speak with in the US are less apprehensive about the description, "genetic consultant" and that's how I now initiate conversations. I have a haunch that the stigma against mental health care affects how folks perceive, "counselor". In fact the common tongue in cheek response I used to get often was, "Do my genes need counseling??"
I think rebranding is long overdue. thank you for getting the conversation started!
This is a very difficult question! I'm finding it difficult to consider this question objectively - my initial reaction is 100% driven by emotion. For the better part of my adult life I wanted to be a genetic counselor; more accurately, to do what genetic counselors do. It is hard for my brain to separate the act of what I do from the title that I had coveted for so long and the profession that I am so proud to be a part of.