Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Genetic Counseling

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Jennifer Czerwinski, MS, CGC

Committee Member

S. Shahrukh Hashmi, MD, MPH, PhD

Committee Member

Victoria Wagner, MS, CGC

Committee Member

Kathyrn Ostermaier, MD

Committee Member

Katie Stoll, MS, CGC


Genetic counselors serve as a link between the medical community and the disability community as they are regularly the first exposure families have following a new diagnosis in a pregnancy, infant or child. This role requires genetic counselors to be responsible and compassionate when approaching conversations about disability. With a lack of research on how the specific attitudes of genetic counselors toward disability impact clinical practice, we aimed to understand these attitudes, what factors affect implicit attitudes toward disability, and how these attitudes affect counseling. Case scenarios involving disability were used to examine different counseling content preferences within a genetic counseling session including medical and diagnostic information, lifestyle and social implications, psychosocial issues. Attitudes were measured using the Disability Implicit Association Test (DA-IAT), and personal and professional experience with disability was assessed. Results from the study reveal that genetic counselors have a stronger bias toward ability compared to the previous participants of the DA-IAT. Results reassure that personal experience with individuals with disabilities does not significantly impact DA-IAT scores or preferred counseling methods. The uniform bias observed across specialties may point to an underlying characteristic of the genetic counseling field either due to shared exposure to disability, self-selection or another factor still undetermined, but even more likely, may point to an inability of the available tool to assess implicit bias toward and individual or group of individuals.


disability, ability, genetic counseling, implicit attitudes, bias, counseling method, preference