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South of the Border, Too

Like the US, Mexico has a growing need for genetic counselors, but according to a Stanford University researcher, its efforts to address this issue are just starting out. Arturo Pineda, a research engineer at Stanford told Scope, a blog published by Stanford Medicine, "Mexico's current state right now in terms of genetic counseling is comparable to the United States in the 1980s."

Pineda, along with Daiana Bucio, a genetic counselor who graduated from Stanford Medicine's Program in Human Genetics & Genetic Counseling, led a research team that delved into the barriers Mexico is facing in increasing the number of genetic counselors and made suggestions based on their investigation. They published their findings this week in Molecular Genetics & Genomic Medicine.

According to the researchers, across 32 Mexican states, 54 percent of enrolled medical students receive no medical genetics training, and only Mexico City averages at least one medical geneticist (the equivalent of a genetic counselor) per 100,000 people. They cite statistics from the Medical Council for Genetics, which currently lists only 248 medical geneticists for the entire country, or one provider per 525,000 inhabitants, well below the US/UK standard of one per 100,000.

Pineda cited not only the lack of medical geneticists in the country but also a lack of awareness by patients and physicians as challenges right now. "We even spoke with a medical geneticist who said she worked at a large institution in southern Mexico, but was not getting patients referred to her simply because very few primary care doctors knew that she was a resource for patients," Pineda told Scope.

Though Mexico trails far behind the US in employing such professionals, the number of genetic counselors in the US versus the rapidly expanding number of genetic tests on the market is also a challenge. According to this September 2018 GenomeWeb article, there are more than 4,000 genetic counselors in the US and Canada, and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs in this sector will grow by 29 percent between 2016 and 2026. However, there are currently more than 74,000 commercially available genetic tests in the US, and 14 new tests enter the market daily, compared to 60,000 commercially available tests two years ago and 10 new tests launched on the market daily.