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The Warren Alpert Foundation has granted Penn Medicine $9.5 million towards increasing diversity in genetic counseling. Credit: Oscar Vasquez

Penn Medicine has been awarded a $9.5 million dollar grant to increase diversity in genetic counseling. 

Currently, 95% of the genetic counseling field is comprised of white women, EurekAlert reported. The grant from the Warren Alpert Foundation is the most significant award to support genetic counseling education in the nation. It will aid 40 students from underrepresented backgrounds over the course of five years who are enrolled in five genetic counseling programs across the country.

These programs include the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Science in Genetic Counseling Program, and Genetic Counseling master’s programs at Boston University School of Medicine, Rutgers University, Sarah Lawrence College, and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, EurekAlert reported.

This is the first time an alliance of genetic counseling programs has collaborated to increase diversity and inclusion with scholarships, post-graduate training, and career advancements for genetic counseling, EurekAlert reported. Previous grants awarded to the Master of Science in Genetic Counseling Program at Penn have supported summer internship programs for underrepresented undergraduate students interested in genetic counseling.

"We are honored to receive this grant from The Warren Alpert Foundation to continue to expand diversity and inclusion in genetic counseling while growing the overall genetic counseling workforce,"  Chair of the Department of Genetics in the Perelman School of Medicine Daniel J. Rader told EurekAlert. “The Foundation is extraordinarily forward-thinking in making this generous funding available to address a critical need as the implementation of genomic medicine continues to rapidly expand.”

A 2019 Penn Medicine study found that Black, Hispanic, and Native American students were underrepresented in medical schools relative to the U.S. population. In February, Penn Medicine launched an initiative to address racism in the health care field.