Sheldon Clark Reed helped establish the profession of genetic counseling in the US during the twentieth century. In 1947 Reed coined the term genetic counseling to describe the interaction of a doctor explaining to a patient the likelihood of passing a certain trait to their offspring. With physicians being able to test for genetic abnormalities like cystic fibrosis, Reed helped trained individuals give patients the tools to make informed decisions. In 1955 Reed published the book Counseling in Medical Genetics. Reed educated patients about how certain genetically transmitted traits could adversely affect their offspring and provided options for remedying those effects.
Audrey Heimler and colleagues founded the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) in 1979 in New Hyde Park in New York, New York. Her stated goals were to establish the field of genetic counseling within biomedicine and to coordinate counselors’ voices, so that physicians and others in the medical industry would not dictate the future of the field. Genetic counselors inform patients about the potential for inherited diseases passed on through family lineages and help to navigate the options available. NSGC helped establish the field of genetic counseling by formulating guidelines for accreditation in university programs, establishing curriculum for continuing education of members, and creating committees to respond to issues that pertain to genetic disorders and the way they are presented to patients. As scientists continue to research the human genome, particularly in the area of prenatal genetics, an area of medicine that allows physicians to diagnose the health of the fetus prior to birth, genetic counseling is an established field in reproductive medicine.