Julie Rutberg, Genetic Counsellor at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute since 2005, has been elected incoming President of the Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors (CAGC). In her new position, she and the CAGC’s Board of Directors plan to tackle several big-picture questions about the future of the profession in Canada, including whether the organization wants national regulation.
“Currently, genetic counsellors are certified, but there is no provincial or territorial legislation to regulate who can hang out a shingle that says you’re a genetic counsellor,” explained Rutberg. “That can affect our ability to expand into other roles, since everything’s interpreted differently in different provinces.”
“We have the experience and expertise of helping both health care professionals and the public understand what genetic testing means, what the pros and cons are.” – Julie Rutberg, Genetic Counsellor, UOHI
“We have the experience and expertise of helping both health care professionals and the public understand what genetic testing means, what the pros and cons are. We need to make sure we are available to decision makers as they’re setting public policies or establishing new genetic services, so we can assist both patients and professionals in getting those services to the people who need them,” she added.
As a profession, genetic counsellors are challenged by the waves of new genetic risk data arriving monthly. “We’ve always had the issue of trying to keep up with the technology, the advances in knowledge, and now it’s faster and there are incredible amounts of data. We need to make sure that everybody in the field or joining the profession is up to date with everything and comfortable providing guidance to patients and other health care professionals about these new tests that are coming onto the market. That’s always a challenge.” It is an exciting time, she said, “but we have to make sure we meet those needs.”