Genetics Health Professionals Career Fairs

Last year, nearly 36,000 medical students and graduates applied for 32,000 residency positions across the country. It was a record-setting match, with 3 percent more positions available than the year before. Yet in the field of genetics, the surge was decidedly less palpable: Of 55 slots available, only 30 were filled. Some of those were held by international students intending to return to their home countries, further reducing the cohort of U.S.-based genetics specialists. Furthermore, it is estimated that approximately 50 percent of the genetic metabolic clinics in North America are directed by physicians with no formal training in biochemical genetics; they are filling these positions out of circumstance or institutional need.

Reversing this trend is possible—but it will require a deliberate and focused effort to increase awareness of genetics as a career choice. Rare New England (RNE) is addressing this critical situation by launching a Genetics Health Professionals Career Fairs.
Simply put, this field is facing a severe workforce shortage. With the patient population expanding and no concomitant increase in specialist-trained practitioners occurring, geneticists face a clinical workload that is burdensome and unsustainable. This dire situation must change in order for the millions of U.S. patients affected by rare disease to receive the specialist care they need and deserve.

RNE will organize career fairs in New England during 2019, with the potential to directly affect how medical students and graduates view the field of genetics as a career choice and the opportunities available to them. This scalable program can have a tangible, national impact on the medical community—and, by extension, on the patient community. 

​Two events are scheduled in Boston for medical students and interns/residents. In the spring and fall of 2019, RNE plans to host career fairs at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Medical Center. Each event will feature a pair of evening open houses, held a week apart to accommodate vacation and on-call schedules. These events will be marketed to medical schools and hospitals via student affairs and residency training offices.

 Each evening will feature presentations on clinical genetics, biochemical genetics, and research genetics, with presenters describing “a day in the life of a doctor” and sharing cases that highlight the rewarding nature of a career in genetics. The programs will include patient perspectives, either live or recorded, and will conclude with question and answer sessions; dinner will be provided.

During each session, RNE will provide information about medical elective opportunities at teaching hospitals in the Boston area; scholarship and conference opportunities such as the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMGG) Summer Scholars Program, David R. Cox Scholarship for Rare Compassion, and Global Genes Summit; and patient mentoring and partnership opportunities. 

RNE’s Genetics Health Professional Career Fair Program is innovative because there is currently no targeted recruitment effort seeking to educate medical students, residents, and interns about professional opportunities in the field of genetics. It is also innovative because RNE’s model is powered by an unusual blend of the medical professionals who founded the organization and the patients, families, and volunteers who have come to rely on it for support, education, and advocacy. Together, their perspectives combine to create unique and memorable presentations and events that are unlike others in the region.

The unbalanced patient-provider situation in the U.S. is creating an unsustainable clinical burden that does not bode well for long-term patient care or physician satisfaction. Our program will focus on three achievable objectives that will directly impact participants: explain the role(s) of health providers in genetic medicine; identify the professional opportunities in a career as a geneticist; and provide resources for learning more about the field and about rare diseases. 

With the goal of increasing the number of people who pursue careers in genetics, the Genetics Health Professional Recruitment Program has the potential to improve the quality of life of a large and widespread patient population by strengthening the “ranks” of knowledgeable and committed physicians; with expansion, the program guidelines can also be tailored and applied to recruitment efforts for nurses, counselors, psychologists, and other medical professionals. If effectively managed by RNE and partner organizations, the growth potential of this program is vast.