College students in Iowa are being urged to consider pursuing a job in an emerging field in the health care industry. Colleen Campbell is a certified genetic counselor at the University of Iowa. She organized an information session on the U-I campus today to talk to students about genetic counseling.

She says it’s part of the “personalized medicine” movement, as genetic counselors focus on patient education and advocacy. “You used to have genetics if you had a genetic disease and you were seen in a genetics clinic. But now, genetics is being integrated into all forms of medicine; cardiology, cancer, prenatal, OBGYN, everywhere,” Campbell said. “So, really getting it integrated, we need more genetic counselors as part of those health care teams…to help not only educate the patients, but also keep the health care team up to speed on things.”

Genetic counselors work with patients on health issues specific to their genetic profile. They also serve as an advocate for the patient by communicating with their doctor. “Doctors are really good at their jobs, but they also have a very short amount of time they’re allowed to spend with patients,” Campbell said. “The counselor is a person the patient can call if they see something on news or they read something and they have a question. The counseling appointments are typically longer, so you spend that time really answering patients’ questions and really helping them.”

In Iowa, there are currently only 12 certified genetic counselors. The University of Iowa offers a Genetic Counseling Internship for undergraduate students interested in a career in genetic counseling.