The University of Michigan Genetic Counseling Program is committed to the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice. We resolve to be reflective about the impacts of history, both within our program and our profession, as we envision an improved future. We recognize that we are still a work in progress. Our efforts are multifaceted and focus on the following areas.
OUR STUDENTS: We value the diversity of our students as an essential dimension of excellence in education: listening to voices that may be different from our own can support positive change. Through the process of holistic review of applicants, funding to support individuals from under-represented minorities, and a variety of outreach activities, we continue the important work of building a learning community with unique and diverse perspective. Moving forward, faculty, staff, and students are working together to evaluate the culture of our community, identify gaps and barriers and build new ventures to achieve our goal of an inclusive graduate training culture. One recent example of this work is the establishment by our students of the Disability Advocacy Coalition of Health Professions (DAC HP), a multidisciplinary group focused on creating a cultural change in training and health care practice.
OUR CURRICULUM: In our classrooms, students consider the impacts of healthcare disparities, cultural humility, and the interplay between genetics, ancestry, and the social construct of race. These topics are addressed in required genetic counseling specific courses, workshops led by Michigan Medicine’s Office of Health Equity and Inclusion, book and movie discussions, and in the genetics/genomics courses taught in our department. Core teaching faculty are challenged to examine the content of each of their courses to identify opportunities for continued improvement. Furthermore, students take electives that allow them to explore these topics in an interdisciplinary learning environment. A sampling of relevant offerings in the School of Public Health includes Confronting and Addressing Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare, Theoretical Foundations for Understanding Psychosocial Determinants of Health and Climate, and Historical Roots Of Health Inequities.
SCHOLARSHIP: Many of our faculty and students are engaged in scholarly activities that relate to equity and disparities in the provision of healthcare and genetic services. As noted in our summary of research theses, members of the classes of 2021 and 2022 have explored clinical communication about cancer in Arab American populations, the impact of interpreters on genetic counseling sessions, improving the provision of gender-affirming care to transgender/gender non-binary individuals, and the understanding of variants of uncertain significance across diverse patient populations. This work is a tangible step towards decreasing disparities in genetic services and examining our biases as providers.
OUR PROFESSION: We recognize our important role and responsibility in working to diversify the profession of genetic counseling. This includes not just fostering diversity within our own student body, but also working to build a robust pipeline of diverse individuals to careers in genetics. We have a longstanding history of outreach efforts to local high schools as well as programs here at the University of Michigan. These programs work to expose students from underrepresented minorities to STEM professions.