Last fall, our profession hit a milestone, accrediting the 50th genetic counseling program. This milestone speaks not only to the increasing need for genetic counselors, but also to the dedication and commitment of the genetic counselors who volunteer for ACGC. These volunteers provide external, peer-review of candidacy/new program applications to assess whether programs are compliant with the Standards of Accreditation.
The development and accreditation of a new genetic counseling program is a multifaceted process. For the prospective program, there is the design and creation of a new curriculum in addition to a significant amount of coordination and gaining commitment from multiple entities within the institution. For reviewers, it can be an exciting opportunity to determine whether a proposed program is structured to ensure that it will graduate students who are prepared to enter the workforce.
Although all programs must meet the same set of Standards, every program meets them differently. Programs are being designed (and re-designed) creatively and thoughtfully to meet the needs of their students, increase accessibility to genetic counselor training, and prepare students for a multitude of roles and responsibilities. Reviewers are tasked with assessing whether a perspective program meets or exceeds the Standards of Accreditation. Through this peer-review process, ACGC promotes both program quality and innovation.
The application process to become a new training program is broken up into steps to allow for iterative review and feedback from the ACGC Program Review Committee (PRC). This stepwise process helps to ensure that developing programs are being structured to appropriately comply with the Standards.
- Candidacy application review. The candidacy application requires the prospective program to provide an overview of program design, administration, and curriculum. Although the application must be completed and submitted online, there is a list of the application questions on the ACGC website.
- New program application review. Once a prospective program becomes an ACGC Candidate, it is invited to submit a new program application. This application requires many more details about the program. There are two review dates annually, with applications due either May 15 or January 15, and only 3 programs can submit an application on each date. ACGC keeps a current list of the programs scheduled for review on its website.
- Reaccreditation process. Accredited New Program status remains in effect for 4 years at which time a determination must be made regarding the program’s application for Accredited program status
Once a New Program application is submitted the average timeline to an accreditation decision is 8-12 months. This timeline reflects review and response between the prospective program and the PRC volunteers who review the application. Typically, reviewers request clarification or identify areas that need to be addressed to meet the Standards. The program responds and the review process continues until the reviewers are satisfied that the Standards are met.
A single review team of four individuals is assigned to a program at the time of the candidacy application and, in most cases, will see that program through to New Program accreditation. This commitment takes dedicated, experienced volunteers who are passionate about supporting the development of quality training programs. The peer-review process of accreditation helps to ensure program quality through continual review and assessment, supports programs meeting and exceeding standards, and better prepares students for the workforce.
As is often said, it takes a village, and accrediting new programs is no different. The prospective program, the PRC volunteers, the ACGC executive office, and the ACGC board members work together to ensure genetic counselors are getting training that prepares them adequately to enter the workforce.
If you are interested in becoming a PRC volunteer, visit the ACGC website to complete a volunteer interest form.