In the short few years since I entered the field of genetic counseling, I’ve watched several post-graduate training opportunities (termed “fellowships”) grace my Inbox and Twitter feed. As a student, I was intrigued by the possibility of continuing my education by participating in a fellowship year of subspecialty practice. When I ultimately landed as a newly minted genetic counselor immersed in an ophthalmology practice immediately after graduation, I often considered how I could have benefitted from the mentored fellowship year. And now, as a genetic counselor preparing to host a new fellowship program, I continue to reflect on how these emerging post-graduate training opportunities may impact our profession.
In the development and promotion of a fellowship program, one noticeable limitation is the lack of a centralized repository for information regarding available fellowships. Some opportunities are advertised as standard job postings, promoted on NSGC Job Connection and LinkedIn. Others are shared more widely on social media or advertised to students though correspondence with program directors. This is further complicated by the intermittent nature of some of these programs, which sometimes support a fellow one year and not the next, due to factors including grant funding or mentorship availability.
Currently, it is difficult to track the number and availability of current fellowship opportunities for genetic counselors. Unlike genetic counseling training programs, fellowships are not currently standardized or accredited. Existing opportunities are diverse in their offerings and purposes. However, if the pattern of more mature healthcare professions is predictive for genetic counselors, the number and availability of these programs may increase.
As a result, there is a need to increase the visibility of emerging fellowship programs. Perhaps NSGC or ACGC could consider hosting a website with information on fellowships and advanced training opportunities. The development of a resource that houses information regarding fellowship opportunities is timely, and could streamline advertisement of the programs, alleviating pressure from individual fellowship programs and training program directors. The resource could also provide more transparent and equitable information regarding deadlines, stipends, and selection criteria.
Other healthcare professions have walked this road before us, and now have well-established fellowship programs and publicly available guides for these opportunities. As genetic counselors have always done, we will adapt to the changing demands of our field and the emergence of fellowships within our field. I look forward to being part of these conversations in our ever-changing profession.