Characterizing the research mentorship experience of genetic counseling students

Hannah S. Steber, Kristen P. Fishler, Sarah B. McBrien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling's Practice-Based Competencies include research-related skills, which are taught in master's level genetic counseling programs through didactic coursework and completion of mentored research experiences. It is known that research mentors can impact student work environments, create positive perceptions of the research process, and increase students' likelihood of future involvement in research. However, few studies have characterized the experiences of GC students in receiving research mentorship. It is crucial to understand these experiences from student perspectives to better inform stakeholders about factors that impact mentorship. Using a mixed-methods approach, this study explored GC students' experiences receiving research mentorship and their thoughts regarding the successful qualities of research mentors. GC students (N = 165) who graduated between 2019 and 2022 responded to an online survey measuring the mentorship relationship, defined by the Advisory Working Alliance Inventory (AWAI). On average, participants scored 3.96/5 on the AWAI, where higher scores indicate stronger working alliances. When asked to describe their overall research experience in three words, 75.7% of participants used at least one negatively connotated descriptor. Thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews obtained via purposive sampling of highest and lowest scoring participants on the AWAI (N = 14) revealed the following five themes related to successful qualities of a research mentor: (1) communication; (2) rapport building and relationship; (3) engagement and guidance; (4) expertise and connections; and (5) mentors with different roles. Of note, many of these qualities are foundational skills in genetic counseling. Thus, genetic counselors who may be strong in these areas who do not identify as “researchers” ought to consider becoming a research committee member. Additionally, education programs could consider implementing research committee member evaluations and/or student research self-efficacy surveys to evaluate how these relationships may be shaping research experiences for students within their program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1301-1313
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • education
  • genetic counseling
  • graduate training
  • mentorship
  • professional development
  • research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)


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