Exploration of support for Black, Indigenous, and people of color students in genetic counseling programs

Dhriti Jagannathan, Ian M. MacFarlane, Heather Zierhut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Students in higher education who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) experience racism, discrimination, and microaggressions through tokenization, hypervisibility, invisibility, and marginalization. The experiences of BIPOC genetic counseling students with curriculum, clinical training, and sense of belonging also differ. Therefore, there is a large need for understanding how support is defined by BIPOC genetic counseling students, and then how to integrate specific aspects of training into a practical framework for programs to address racism and the resulting emotional implications. This study aimed to define current practices of support and identify gaps in genetic counseling programs as described by BIPOC students. BIPOC genetic counseling students (N = 40) were recruited through Listserv, social media, and Slack channels to complete an online survey eliciting demographic data, perspectives on support, and available support resources. The online survey consisted of 22 open- and closed-ended questions. Data were collected over a 5-week period. Open-ended responses were coded by thematic analysis and audited. The top three supports were as follows: (1) presence of other BIPOC students; (2) presence of BIPOC faculty; and (3) financial funding. Participants' individual definitions of support indicated that each student defined support in a unique way. Most participants defined understanding and empathy stemming from peers, supervisors, and faculty within the program setting as important aspects of overall support. The majority of participants felt somewhat or strongly supported in areas of training. The area with the least support was within rotation/fieldwork experiences. Programs should consider social- and program-level support combined with emotional support. Individualized support for every student is needed while avoiding assumptions about their identity and support needs. Training programs may consider a balance of efforts to prioritize recruiting more BIPOC faculty and students and providing the outlined support and funding resources for their students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-70
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Journal of Genetic Counseling published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of National Society of Genetic Counselors.


  • diversity
  • education
  • genetic counseling
  • graduate training
  • support


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