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What is Medical Genetics?
Medical Genetics is a branch of medicine that deals with the study of genetic disorders and inherited diseases. It involves the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of genetic disorders that may affect an individual or a family. Medical Genetics also includes the study of genes and their function, genetic counseling, and the use of genetic testing to assess the risk of developing certain diseases. The ultimate aim of Medical Genetics is to promote health and prevent disease by understanding the underlying genetic factors that contribute to the onset of diseases.
What does a medical geneticist do?
A medical geneticist is a medical professional who specializes in the study and diagnosis of genetic disorders. They work directly with patients to evaluate their symptoms and medical history, perform diagnostic tests, interpret the results and provide genetic counseling. Medical geneticists also work closely with healthcare teams to create and implement treatment plans for patients with genetic disorders. They may also conduct research to advance the understanding of genetic disorders, and design and implement clinical trials for new therapies.
Common Medical Genetics Procedures:
- Genetic Counselling: It is an essential genetic procedure that involves counselling patients and their families about genetic disorders, the probability of inheritance, and the possibilities of passing the disorder to their offspring.
- Prenatal diagnosis: This procedure is carried out during pregnancy to identify any genetic disorders or chromosomal abnormalities that the fetus may have. Some common prenatal diagnosis procedures include amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling (CVS), and ultrasound.
- Carrier Testing: Carrier testing is performed to identify individuals who carry a genetic mutation that can cause a disease but do not show any signs or symptoms of the disease themselves. The test is usually performed on couples who are planning to have children.
- Genetic Testing: It is used to diagnose or rule out the genetic cause of a disease, and it involves analyzing a person’s DNA to look for mutations or changes in specific genes that cause diseases.
- Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD): This is a technique used to screen embryos for genetic disorders before implantation in the uterus during in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The technique can also be used to select embryos based on gender or other characteristics.
- Newborn Screening: Newborn screening involves testing newborn babies for genetic disorders shortly after birth. Screening for various metabolic, genetic, and blood disorders can help identify conditions that can be treated early on to prevent long-term health problems.
- Genetic Therapy: It is a medical procedure where genetic material is introduced into cells to treat or prevent genetic diseases. Techniques include gene editing, gene therapy, and RNA interference.
- Pharmacogenetic testing: It predicts an individual’s response to medication based on their genetic makeup. Pharmaceutical companies can use this information to develop personalized healthcare treatments.
- Familial Cancer Syndromes: Genetic testing can determine if you have an increased risk of developing cancer-based on your family history. Breast Cancer genes 1 and 2 are examples of genes that can be tested.
These are just a few of the most common medical genetics procedures, while others may include enzyme assays, karyotyping, and DNA sequencing. Medical geneticists suggest patients undergo a genetic assessment to determine their risk of developing congenital and hereditary diseases.
How to become a medical geneticist?
There are the general steps to become a medical geneticist:
1. Earn a Bachelor’s degree: To become a medical geneticist, you must first earn a Bachelor’s degree in biology, genetics or a related field.
2. Attend medical school: After completing a Bachelor’s degree, applicants must attend and graduate from an accredited medical school program.
3. Residency: After completing medical school, students must complete a residency where they learn about genetics and genetic counseling.
4. Obtain a license: After completing residency, medical geneticists must obtain a valid medical license to practice medicine.
5. Obtain board certification: To become a medical geneticist, applicants must obtain board certification in clinical genetics.
6. Gain experience: To gain experience, medical geneticists can opt for further fellowship training in specialized clinics or research positions.
7. Continuing education: Medical geneticists must keep up to date with the latest developments in genetics and attend continuing education classes.
8. Networking: Networking is essential in this field, build relationships with colleagues, and stay updated with the latest news and discoveries in the field.
9. Obtain a job: Medical geneticists can work in universities or research training programs, clinics, hospitals, or pharmaceutical companies.
10. Keep learning: Keep learning about the latest advances and discoveries in genetics as well as continuing your education.
How long does it take to become a medical geneticist?
Becoming a medical geneticist can take 11-13 years of education and training to become a fully qualified medical geneticist.
How much does a medical geneticist make?
We don’t have access to the most up-to-date salary information. However, according to salary.com, the median salary for a medical geneticist in the United States is $187,083 per year as of September 2022. The starting salary for medical geneticists is typically around $145,005, and the highest earners in this profession can make upwards of $223,490 per year. Salaries can vary depending on factors like location, employer, and level of experience.