Nebraska Academy of Sciences


Date of this Version



Published in Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences, Volume 1 (1972).


Copyright 1972 by the author(s).


Genetic counseling is an integral part of the physicia'l1's management of patients with presumptive or confirmed hereditary diseases. It is an art and science involving not only the use of technical genetic knowledge and precise medical diagnosis, but also accurate dissemination of genetic information in a tactful, empathetic manner. For optimum success the physician may request services from a variety of paramedical resources to insure maximum assistance for the counselee and his family in coping with a genetic problem.

Medical genetic knowledge has been accrued from many branches of genetics: population genetics, biochemical genetics, cytogenetics, immunogenetics, etc. Increased knowledge concerning birth defects, biostatistics, and computer science has also contributed to this field. All are constantly being made available to the genetic counselor. Figure 1 illustrates the various branches of genetics which have developed rapidly during the last several decades, all of which have provided valuable information to the genetic counselor.

A "tree of genetic counseling" presents thoughts on genetics from antiquity in its roots and trunk and more modern contributions up to but not including the most recent work in genetics and genetic counseling, branching out above (Fig. 2) . Only a few of many interesting contributions to genetic counseling from antiquity will be discussed below. This will be followed by a brief discussion of some of the present problems in genetic counseling and a look into the future.