While genetic counselors are in high demand, gaining entry into genetic counseling training programs is difficult, Maclean's reports.
"It's harder to get into a genetic counseling program than it is to get into medical school," says Susan Randall Armel, the assistant director of the University of Toronto's program. There are four such programs in Canada, and, all together, they accept 18 students each year, Maclean's notes.
William Pirjamali, now a genetic counselor at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Center, tells Maclean's that he was able to get into the McGill University program by taking a year off after college to volunteer at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was able to occasionally see interesting cases. Kirsten Bartels, now St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, adds that her entry was help along by volunteering for a crisis line as an undergrad and getting a university co-op placement at the BC Cancer Agency.
Bartels tells Maclean's that the field is heading toward changes as precision medicine takes off and as the CRISPR gene-editing tool is further developed. "Our role will expand greatly," she says.