The Impossible Job of Genetic Counseling: Misha Angrist Part I


Guest:

Misha Angrist, Author, Assoc. Professor, Duke Institute for Genomic Sciences

Bio and Contact Info

Listen (7:25) New MA in Bioethics and Science Policy

Listen (7:58) Can we embrace NIPT without losing compassion for those with developmental disabilities?

Listen (3:24) How does the process of bioethics work?

Listen (7:41) The unsung heroines

Duke University's Institute of Genome Sciences and Policy will be gone on July 1st. It was announced earlier this year that the flagship institute will be broken up into several new programs. This gave us the perfect excuse to talk about science policy and bioethics challenges in a two part interview with an old Mendelspod friend, Misha Angrist. Misha is an associate professor at Duke and a well known author (Here is a Human Being: At the Dawn of Personal Genomics). He'll be working with Nita Farahany in the new Duke Science and Society Program which is introducing an MA in Bioethics and Science Policy later this fall.

Part I of Misha's interview begins with a discussion about the new masters degree, a first of its kind, and then moves on to a broader discussion of prenatal diagnostics (NIPT). Misha shares some of his concerns with the rapid uptake of prenatal testing, summing up with a question:

"Can we embrace NIPT without losing our compassion for people with developmental problems?"

Misha says he's not a bioethicist (why doesn't anyone want to call themselves a bioethicist?) but then offers some insight into the process of bioethics.

"One of the problems that bioethics has is that we like to traffic in the binary, that things are either/or, and we pit things against each other. That's not always appropriate."

But the meat of the interview has to be Misha's passion for the genetic counselor. Misha jokes about his own path as an "almost" genetic counselor, then goes on to say that:

"Genetic counselors are unsung heroes--or heroines, since the overwhelming majority of them are female. They have an impossible, thankless job. They have to deliver bad news very often to people who may or may not be prepared to hear it."

Stay tuned for Part II of the discussion where Misha shares his thoughts on 23andMe and the future of DTC testing.

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