The Importance of Genetic Counselors in Asia

The Official Newsletter of the ASEAN Network for Drugs, 

by Mercy Laurino, MS, Licensed Genetic Counselor
University of the Philippines Manila

MS Genetic Counseling students with
Dr. Padilla and the author, Ms. Laurino
Photo: RGuerbo

Patients identified to have genetic conditions are understandably noted to be one of the most vulnerable patient populations. As such, access and availability of support from trained health care professionals such as genetic counselors is a must – not just for the benefit of the patient but for their respective families as well. The urgent need to have genetic counselors as crucial members of the health care team is also highlighted based on the increasing application of genomic knowledge as part of medical care.

Briefly, genetic counselors are health care providers with specialized training in medical genetics and psycho-social counseling. During genetic counseling consultation visits, they provide risk assessment and counseling based on the patient’s medical and family history, as well as utilizing any existing population-based empiric risk estimates and results from clinical genetic testing. Traditionally, genetic counselors work with a multidisciplinary team of providers such as clinical pediatric and adult geneticists, medical oncologist, neurologists, social workers, nutritionists, as well as others.

In Asia, genetic counseling related initiatives will include the creation of a professional society of genetic counselors in order to foster clinical and research collaboration, improve access and delivery of services, as well as an opportunity to standardize curricula development in training future genetic counselors in the region. Currently, genetic counseling training programs are available in the Philippines, Korea, Japan, India, Taiwan and efforts are ongoing in other countries to establish their own programs. While the majority of practicing genetic counselors around the world are trained at a master’s post-graduate level, some have a diploma or certificate in genetic counseling. Indeed, addressing the need to increase the number of competent genetic counselors practicing in Asia moves forward the commitment to integrate medical genetics into the general health services in every country. This important effort is forwarded while being cognizant to the various social, cultural, religious and health care systems in the region.

Genetic Counseling Session process. The patient’s medical and family medical history
is reviewed. Based on this information, genetics education, recurrence risk assessment
and psycho-social counseling is provided. In partnership with medical professionals,
prognosis and follow-up medical recommendations are given to the patient and/or
family members.
About the ASEAN-NDI

The proposal to establish regional innovation network in the ASEAN territory is an initiative of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR). The network named as the ASEAN Network for Drugs, Diagnostics, Vaccines and Traditional Medicines Innovation (ASEAN-NDI) was proposed by the Philippines which was subsequently endorsed by the ASEAN Sub-committee on Biotechnology to the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology which approved it and adopted it as an ASEAN initiative. The network is meant to ensure  the health technology development and the capacity of member states are appropriately maximized and managed according to regional health needs.
The ASEAN-NDI Link is accepting article submissions focusing on research works, opinions, initiatives on the following priority topics: drugs, diagnostics, vaccines, climate change, and traditional medicines.

ASEAN-NDI Secretariat
Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD)
Institution Development Division, Department of Science and Technology
Rm.306 3F DOST Main Building
Bicutan, Taguig City, Philippines 1631
Phone +632-837-7534 or 37
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