Military Genetics Careers

Jul 31, 2018

The study of genetic content in the DNA helps to predict character, the occurrence of disease, and other similarly important factors. This article details the career of a clinical geneticist, the only genetics-focused career in the United States Military.

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Genetics is the study of human variation, genes and heredity in the human DNA. The United States Air Force is the only military branch running a full-service genetics lab, but this lab services all institutions under the Department of Defense. Read on to learn information about the clinical geneticists that staff this lab.

Career Information

Job Title Average Salary (2018)* Applicable Skills/Traits
Clinical Geneticists N/A Knowledge and training in the medical genetics field, basic army training, an understanding of the military environment

Source:*Department of Defense

Relevance to Military Background

The United States Air Force runs a full-service genetics lab and has clinical geneticists working in it. Below is a description of this career.

Clinical Geneticists

Clinical geneticists are a special division of the United States Air Force created to provide genetic-testing services to service-members and their families. Genetic testing is used to diagnose and treat DNA-related issues and the results derived from it are used as proof of the need for specialized care and treatment. From researching and testing the probability of acquiring hereditary diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's, to treating conditions like cystic fibrosis, these doctors are trained to provide these health services to persons of all backgrounds and age. In some cases, clinical geneticists even offer neonatal care and other healthcare services for service-members and their families when needed.

Important to note, the work of clinical geneticists requires them to conduct interviews with their patients and to review cases, going back to the examination of family histories to determine the direction the diagnosis and treatment will take. They also get to provide counseling to patients who have been diagnosed with hereditary conditions and their families. Geneticists also become instructors and mentors of new recruits and interns joining the Air Force in this geneticist capacity.

To become a clinical geneticist, a service-member must have acquired or should be intending to study for a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine or a Doctor of Medicine degree. They must also complete an AoA- or an ACGME-accredited program for their post-graduate training. Ideally, applicants are between the ages of 18 to 48 years and need to go through 5.5 weeks of commissioned officer training to become a fully fledged military member. They need also to complete a residency and a fellowship in medical genetics in a healthcare institution after their medical training. The typical work environment for clinical geneticists is in the clinics on base or aboard ships for the Navy.

Taking advantage of its advanced genetics research equipment and highly trained personnel, the Department of Defense now recommends that all persons enlisted to the military undergo DNA sequencing. The reason for this is that when information regarding a person's traits and susceptibility to disease are examined, it is easy to make preparations or take precautionary measures against any risks. In the end, this information betters the care given to soldiers and makes them more effective in their roles. For example, when a DNA study reveals that a person is likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the commanders ensure that the soldier is not put on the front lines. Those who are resistant to some diseases are likely to be sent on missions where the diseases are common. Clinical geneticists are in charge of this new military venture.

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