Utah Company Helping Xavier Start Genetic Counseling Program

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A genetic testing company based in Salt Lake City is helping a historically Black and Catholic university in New Orleans create a genetic counseling program.

The donation from Myriad Genetics will support initial development and launch of the program, including scholarships, internships, and joint research initiatives, Xavier University of Louisiana said in a news release Friday.

Myriad Genetics is not revealing how much money it is giving to Xavier University of Louisiana, company spokeswoman Megan Manzari said Friday.

“Myriad Genetics’ support is among the university’s first collaborations designed to support professional diversity, reduce health disparities and increase access to data-driven genetic insights,” the university said.

Genetic counselors advise individuals and families affected by or at risk for genetic disorders and help them make informed healthcare decisions. The university said recent studies have found that only 2% of genetic counselors identify as Black or African-American.

“New programs in genetic counseling and informatics will help cultivate the next generation of genetic counselors of color and expand diversity in healthcare,” said Gwendolyn Turner, head of diversity, equity, inclusion and engagement at Myriad Genetics.

Xavier said in March that it will be the first university in Louisiana and the first historically black college or university to offer a genetic counseling program.

The school will teach classes for the graduate program, with clinical work at Ochsner Health, Louisiana’s largest health system.