Clinical Geneticist

Analyze DNA for abnormalities that lead to diseases or disorders.

What does a Clinical Geneticist do?

Some diseases are caused by the way people live. Eating and drinking too much, for example, can make you sick, but diet and exercise can help with this. However, other diseases—like cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, and Alzheimer’s disease—are caused by genetic factors, and it would take more than a spin on the treadmill to cure them.

That’s where the clinical geneticist steps in to test people for these sorts of hereditary diseases and develop programs to help them deal with their conditions. As a clinical geneticist, you look over the X-rays, bloodwork, and other tests patients have already endured before they come visit you. When they arrive, you interview them and then perform your own physical examination. This typically includes taking a few samples of their blood.

You perform a battery of tests on that blood looking for tiny threads of DNA, and then tiny bends, omissions, or problems in that DNA. Sometimes these DNA problems are common for people who have the same disease. You then tell your patient about everything you’ve found and put together a treatment plan to help them. If your patient has children, you may also test those children for the same disease. If they don’t have children yet, you talk with them about the sad possibility that they could pass the disease on to their future children.

When you’re not in your office, you jet away to exotic places like Detroit and Austin and Baltimore to attend conferences about genetics. Surrounding yourself with other clinical geneticists, you spend days talking at length without having to explain yourself or interpret your language. You also read up on the field in journals and try to publish your own research or case studies.