Genetic counseling began in the United States in the 1930s when the academic discipline of genetics emerged and Mendelian principles of single gene inheritance could be applied to human conditions. The first practitioners were academic geneticists who were approached by individuals with concerns about their own family history. In the 1940s the field of human genetics was established, followed by medical specialization in genetics that focused on the diagnosis and natural history of genetic conditions. Shortly thereafter in the 1970s, the profession of genetic counseling was established in the United States. Practitioners earn a master's degree and are trained in both human genetics and psychological counseling skills. As of 2002 there were estimated to be over 2,000 genetic counselors practicing in the United States and Canada. Genetic counselors are credentialed by the American Board of Genetic Counseling to uphold practice standards. These professionals work with medical geneticists and obstetricians to provide education and counseling related to risk or diagnosis of a genetic condition or congenital anomaly.
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