The University of Michigan Genetic Counseling Program acknowledges the existence of systemic racism and is committed to developing and enacting a thoughtful plan to foster diversity, equity, inclusion and justice within our community and profession. In making this commitment, we recognize the importance of being reflective about the history of our program and profession as we continue to look forward and try to bring about change. We recognize that we are still a work in progress. Our efforts are multifaceted and have focused on some of the following areas.
OUR STUDENTS: We value the diversity of our students as an essential dimension of excellence in education. We learn by listening to voices that may be different from our own. Through the process of holistic review of applicants, funding to support individuals from under-represented minorities, and a variety of outreach activities, we have begun the important work of building a learning community with unique and diverse perspective. Twenty percent of our current cohort of students identify as being from an under-represented racial or ethnic minority, 20% identify as male, and 32% are Pell grant recipients. Moving forward, faculty, staff, and students are working together to evaluate the culture of our community, strengthen existing efforts, identify gaps and barriers, and build new ventures to achieve our goals of an anti-racist inclusive graduate training culture.
OUR CURRICULUM: Students consider issues related to healthcare disparities, cultural humility, and the interplay between genetics, ancestry, and the social construct of race in multiple venues. These topics are addressed in most of the required genetic counseling specific courses, in workshops led by Michigan Medicine’s Office of Health Equity and UM’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, in book and movie discussions, and increasingly in the core genetics courses taught in the Department of Human Genetics. Our curriculum committee has begun the work of examining the content of each of our 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, Justice, Health & Sustainability.
SCHOLARSHIP: Many of our faculty and students are engaged in scholarly activities that relate to disparities in healthcare and equity in the provision of genetic services. For example, members of the class of 2021 explored important topics related to communication about cancer in the Arab American population, the provision of gender-affirming care of transgender and gender non-binary individuals, and the understanding of variants of uncertain significance across diverse patient populations. We are excited to continue research in this area with current and future students.
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 long-standing 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.