Friday Aug 11, 2023

#249 Men in Genetic Counseling

In this episode we are joined by two genetic counselors to explore the experience of being a male in our field. 


John Zimmerman, MS, CGC, is a certified genetic counselor at UT Southwestern Medical Center. John completed his genetic counseling training at the University of Minnesota in 2017 and has since worked as a clinical genetic counselor with the UT Southwestern Cancer Genetics Program. Recently, he has taken on the additional role of Director of Fieldwork for the UT Southwestern Genetic Counseling Program.  John is an active member of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, serving on the Access and Service Delivery Committee. He is also the current president of the Texas Society of Genetic Counselors. 


Daniel Riconda, MS, CGC, (he/him) is a certified genetic counselor and Associate Professor at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston, Texas who received his M.S. in Genetic Counseling from Sarah Lawrence College in 1988. He obtained certification by the American Board of Medical Genetics in 1990 and became certified as a founding member of the American Board of Genetic Counseling in 1993. He is also a certified Resolve Through Sharing (RTS) bereavement counselor. In 2016 he joined the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at BCM and School of Health Professions to lead the coordination, design, and development of a Master of Science Genetic Counseling program and is now serving as the Program Director. He has been serving as a project manager of Consultagene, an online tele-genetic counseling and educational resource at BCM, since 2016. He currently sees patients for cancer genetic counseling in the Adult Genetics Clinic at BCM. He has served as an At-Large Board member for the NSGC BOD (2015-2016) and has previously served as a member of that organization’s ethics committee, public affairs committee and co-chair of their subcommittee on licensure. He served a 5 year term (2002-2006) as an (elected) board member of the American Board of Genetic Counseling (and as chair of the Accreditation committee for 3 years), served as the program services committee chairperson for the Florida March of Dimes, and has served on both the Florida & Texas public affairs committees for the March of Dimes. In 2010, he was selected as one of nine-videotaped “Master Genetic Counselor’s” for training videos that were distributed to all of the Genetic Counseling training programs across North America. He has been actively involved in genetics education and licensure activities at the local, state and national level. He is currently an invited member of the ASHG Membership Engagement Committee, is a member of the ACGC Standards Committee, and served on the Association of Genetic Counseling Program Directors (AGCPD) DEI Committee. In 2022 he received a Norton-Rose-Fulbright Faculty Excellence Award for Educational Leadership. Prior to joining Baylor, he developed and coordinated prenatal, pediatric, specialty clinics and oncology related genetic counseling services at Winnie Palmer and Arnold Palmer Hospitals in Orlando, Florida for more than 2 decades.

On This Episode We Discuss:

  • Navigating a profession that is predominantly female as male genetic counselors
  • Unique perspectives and contributions that male genetic counselors bring to the field, and how it benefits patients and the overall genetic counseling profession
  • Challenges and stereotypes our guests have faced as male genetic counselors and how they’ve addressed or overcome them
  • How the percentage of male genetic counselors has changed over the years
  • Steps that can be taken to encourage more men to enter the genetic counseling field and to support their growth and success once they are part of the profession
  • Advice for men considering a career in genetic counseling or those who have recently entered the profession
  • How male GCs are impacting the average salary
  • How our guests see the role of male genetic counselors evolving and contributing to the advancement of the genetic counseling field


Links to resources and references we mentioned in this episode:

  • Minority Genetics Professional Network (MGPN)
  • NSGC's Professional Status Survey
  • Chen A, Veach PM, Schoonveld C, Zierhut H. Seekers, Finders, Settlers, and Stumblers: Identifying the Career Paths of Males in the Genetic Counseling Profession. J Genet Couns. 2017 Oct;26(5):948-962. doi: 10.1007/s10897-017-0071-1. Epub 2017 Mar 14. PMID: 28289854.
  • Kopesky JW, Veach PM, Lian F, Leroy BS. Where are the males? Gender differences in undergraduates' interest in and perceptions of the genetic counseling profession. J Genet Couns. 2011 Aug;20(4):341-54. doi: 10.1007/s10897-011-9365-x. Epub 2011 Apr 20. PMID: 21505919.
  • Barnett, C., Myers, M. F., Spaeth, C. G., Pilipenko, V., & Bucheit, L. A. (2020). The gendered pay gap in genetic counseling. Journal of genetic counseling, 29(2), 182–191.


Stay tuned for the next new episode of DNA Today on August 18th, 2023 for our 250th episode featuring a writer from Kira’ favorite tv show/podcast! New episodes are released every Friday. In the meantime, you can binge 250 other episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, streaming on the website, or any other podcast player by searching, “DNA Today”. Episodes since 2021 are also recorded with video which you can watch on our YouTube channel.  


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