As director of the Genetic Counseling Graduate Program within UC’s College of Allied Health Sciences, Nancy Steinberg Warren is a strong proponent of cultural sensitivity for genetic counselors.
Now, with the help of a $50,000 grant, she’ll be able to spread her expertise dramatically. Warren, an associate professor, is the winner of the 2009 Jane Engelberg Memorial Fellowship grant from the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC).
Only one grant is awarded annually. Warren will pursue professional development activities in cultural competence and pedagogy and develop an online cultural compe tence tool kit for practicing genetic counselors and students in training.
“The purpose of the tool kit is to assist practitioners and students in the profession to explore their own biases and increase their knowledge and sensitivity to how the nuances of different cultures can influence the dynamics of genetic counseling practice,” she says. “In other health care fields, cultural competence education has been shown to improve patient satisfaction and health outcomes.”
Genetic counselors provide information and support to families who have members with birth defects or genetic disorders, and to families who may be at risk for a variety of inherited conditions. The need for cultural sensitivity, Warren says, is especially important for genetic counselors because of the in-depth and personal nature of the questions they may need to pose to their patients.
“Leading this project will help infuse cultural competence into my classes and the professional workforce,” she says, adding that the tool kit will help learners identify their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to cultural competence.
“A person can read chapters and chapters on a particular culture and still not be able to effectively relate to the person in front of them,” she says. “The tool kit will use cases to demonstrate culturally sensitive approaches to interviewing and counseling typical scenarios encountered in clinical and research practice.”
The grant is named for Jane Engelberg, a bilingual genetic counselor who developed her expertise in counseling patients on issues related to hemophilia and prenatal diagnosis.