Honoring our Genetic Counselors on GC Awareness Day


Happy Genetic Counselor Awareness Day! Today is the first such day ever, introduced by the National Society of Genetic Counselors to help raise awareness of our profession and greater understanding of our roles.

Genetic counselors are professionals who have specialized education in both genetics and counseling in order to help provide the personalized help patients need as they make decisions about their genetic health. The profession was born in 1968 at Sarah Lawrence College to bridge the gap of understanding between the burgeoning field of medical genetics and the patients who were being impacted by this complex new information. Since then the field has exploded, and was named last year by Forbes as one of the 20 fastest growing jobs in America. Learn more about genetic counseling.

In 2017, we fill an ever-evolving variety of roles in both traditional and non-traditional settings, including places like Color, where genetic counseling is an essential part of what we do. Working here offers a unique opportunity for us to interact with clients and providers to increase access to genetic counseling and testing while also learning new skills like marketing, design, and business development.

We’re very lucky at Color to have a world-class team of genetic counselors who make enormous contributions to the lives of our patients, each other, and Color as a whole. I’m so excited to introduce you to some of our team members and hope you’ll join me in celebrating them today!

Cynthia

Hometown: Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada

What led you to become a GC?

I wanted a career in genetics that would also let me work directly with people instead of at a lab bench.

What do you like most about being a genetic counselor?

Learning new things all the time!

How do you see the field changing over the next 5 years?

I think genetic counselors will continue to move into specialty clinics and work with non-genetics healthcare providers. I also think we’ll see a shift away from pre-test counseling to post-test counseling. There aren’t enough GCs to keep up with the traditional models.

What advice would you give to aspiring GCs?

Self-care is essential; it’s never too early to start finding strategies that work for you.

What’s your favorite movie/TV show/novel?

TV show: Outlander
Novel: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
Movie: The Matrix

Lily

Hometown: Cross Plains, Wisconsin

What led you to become a GC?

Fame and fortune! JK. It seemed like less work than becoming a MD and l liked science and psychology.

What do you like most about being a genetic counselor today?

How many different things I get to do! I work with patients, providers, I write things, I help on products, etc.

How do you see the field changing over the next 5 years?

I hope we’ll start to let go of some of our notions of how we do our work and start to adapt and change with the times. I.e. a patient doesn’t need to meet with a GC for 60 minutes before having testing.

What advice would you give to aspiring genetic counselors?

Keep an open mind and try out as many different roles as you can.

What’s your favorite movie/TV show/novel?

Movie: Princess Bride 
TV: Bob’s Burgers 
Novel: Harry Potter series

Anything else you’d like to share?

I have two cats!

Lauren

Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

What led you to become a GC?

Like many GCs, I thought I was on my way to med school, but I couldn’t figure out what specialty would be a good fit for me. In my genetics course we had a guest lecture from a local GC and I knew immediately and with certainty that this is what I would do with my career. I started volunteering in the clinic that week, and twelve years later I’ve never once second-guessed my decision!

What do you like most about being a genetic counselor today?

I’m really rewarded by expanding our skill set to new environments and delivery models, like telemedicine. It’s been an incredibly fun challenge to apply my training and clinical background in new and different ways to try and increase access to genetic counseling for people who need it.

How do you see the field changing over the next 5 years?

It’s been very hopeful to see the shift in mindset recently around how genetic counselors can contribute to mainstreaming genetic health information. I’m inspired by genetic counselors who are meeting people at the intersection of genetic information and consumer interests. If we keep heading in that direction, in five years I think genetics will be on its way to becoming commonplace health knowledge, just like diabetes or cholesterol.

What advice would you give to aspiring genetic counselors?

The best career advice I ever received: always have a plan in mind so you know have a direction to charge in, but keep an open mind and don’t get so attached to your plan that you miss out on the opportunities that come your way.

What’s your favorite movie/TV show/novel?

Currently I’m obsessed with anything royal family-related (The Crown, Victoria, etc.). I’m also reading A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman for book club and loving it so far.

Shelly

Hometown: New York State between Buffalo and Niagara Falls

What led you to become a GC?

I loved genetics in high school and college. After working in the lab, genetic counseling seemed like the perfect fit of science and clinical work. I was lucky in that the mother of one of my best friends in high school was a GC and let me shadow her so I could see what it was like.

What do you like most about being a genetic counselor today?

I like the different opportunities that are open to GCs. I’m glad I’ve had the chance to work in a clinical setting and in different laboratory settings. I think there are so many options and they all still make use of the counseling skills you learn in school and clinic.

Natalie

Hometown: Folsom, CA

What led you to become a GC?

In college, I had an interest in both medicine/genetics and psychology/counseling. When I found out there was a career that involved both, I didn’t have to think twice.

What do you like most about being a genetic counselor today?

We’re really at the forefront of a dynamic and challenging field. Genetics is always changing and never boring — we get to be lifelong learners in a really interesting subject. I also love having the ability to really make a substantial difference in someone else’s life and be an advocate for patients who need it.

How do you see the field changing over the next 5 years?

Honestly I think it’s very hard to predict. But with how quickly technology is moving, I think we’re getting close to a future in which whole genome sequencing is normal and routine. This will open up a ton of new areas that GCs will have to be well versed in. People want this information, and it’s getting easier to obtain, so we’ll really need to be there to help with interpretation.

What advice would you give to aspiring genetic counselors?

I would really encourage aspiring GCs to take advantage of their time in school to explore all kinds of opportunities that are available to GCs in today’s landscape. The types of roles suited to our skillset have grown so varied even in the last few years! I think there used to be (and still is) a bit of stigma surrounding taking “non-traditional” jobs right out of grad school, when they can be a great option for a lot of GCs. Being open minded in the exploration process could lead you to find something you love that you’d never thought you’d do! It took a while for me to figure that out.

What’s your favorite movie/TV show/novel?

Movie: Inception
TV show: Stranger Things
Novel: anything written by Margaret Atwood

Anything else you’d like to share?

Can I just reiterate how much I love working for Color? I’ve felt more challenged/excited/fulfilled working here than any other position I’ve held. I really believe that we’re providing a wonderful and needed service to the patient community. Color is a great place for GCs!

Kelly

Hometown: Valencia, California

What led you to become a GC?

As an undergrad at UCLA, I majored in psychobiology (the study of behavior from a biological perspective). Coincidentally during undergrad, my parents moved next door to a prenatal genetic counselor who invited me to shadow her GC sessions. After one day of listening to her interactions with patients I was hooked! Genetic counseling is the perfect marriage of my love for genetics and psychology.

What do you like most about being a genetic counselor today?

Sharing results with clients that can impact their lives (and the lives of their relatives for generations to come) for the better is so rewarding. It’s also so exciting and ever-challenging to be part of a field that is constantly evolving as new discoveries are translated into clinical care.

How do you see the field changing over the next 5 years?

As more individuals and providers acknowledge and understand the benefit of genetic testing in healthcare, I see genetic counseling moving more towards post-test counseling versus the traditional pre- and post-test counseling. I also predict more telegenetic counseling services will be offered to increase access to GCs.

What advice would you give to aspiring genetic counselors?

Explore all your career options before accepting a position and continue to do so throughout your practice! Coming out of my genetic counseling graduate program, I was convinced I was going to be a prenatal clinical GC my whole life; however, as I began practicing, my interests evolved and changed.

What’s your favorite movie/TV show/novel?

I have a 7 month old and a sports fanatic husband, so my control over the TV is fairly limited at the moment! Favorite novel still goes out to Pride and Prejudice.

Anything else you’d like to share?

My husband caught me saying, “Hi my name is Kelly and I’m calling from Color Genomics” in my sleep! Guess all those client and support calls are really affecting my subconscious.

Megan

Hometown: Santa Rosa, California

What led you to become a GC?

A family member received genetic counseling when I was young.

What do you like most about being a genetic counselor today?

Being able to connect with clients, hearing their stories and providing them with information that may be life-saving to them and their families. So many clinicians don’t have the time to spend anymore to listen to their clients’ stories and it’s so important to honor every person’s experience.

How do you see the field changing over the next 5 years?

I see the types of testing evolving (whole exome and whole genome and SNPS) and GCs needing to interpret this information to patients and clients.

What advice would you give to aspiring genetic counselors?

Be appreciative and open to every experience. Find a mentor and be receptive to everything they tell you. The majority of the job is not what you know but how you treat others in the process of learning it all.

What’s your favorite movie/TV show/novel?

Jane the Virgin

Dawn

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

What led you to become a GC?

Working as a behavioural therapist for children with Autism motivated me to work with families and people in a clinical capacity as compared to working in a lab dissecting frog embryos.

What do you like most about being a genetic counselor?

So many things. Most of all: our dynamic and changing genetics world and working in a multidisciplinary setting with experts with different backgrounds, while still having a direct patient connection and being able to provide patients and their families with knowledge about their health risks. Empowering families to connect with resources to be an advocate for their own health is the best feeling.

How do you see the field changing over the next 5 years?

I think there will be a much larger role for pharmacogenetics and that there will be increasing public genomic data available on how we can better tailor our medicine to our bodies. Genetic counselors will likely play a large role in that conversation, and explaining the value and limitations of these variants.

What advice would you give to aspiring genetic counselors?

Be open to different career directions; there will be so many inspirational and passionate experts you can learn from and work with in our field. You can build your expertise and be a valuable member in a lot of different environments because of how transferable your skills are.

What’s your favorite movie/TV show/novel?

Sex and the City!

April

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

What led you to become a GC?

My brother’s illness and Jurassic Park

What do you like most about being a genetic counselor today?

Touching patients’ lives in a positive way.

How do you see the field changing over the next 5 years?

More navigating the landscape of increasing genetic predictive testing.

What advice would you give to aspiring genetic counselors?

Be flexible!

What’s your favorite movie/TV show/novel?

Movie: Jurassic Park
TV: This is Us 
Novel: Alaska

Carmelina

Hometown: Bellingham, WA

What led you to become a GC?

My love of genetics and teaching.

What do you like most about being a genetic counselor today?

Increased awareness of what a GC is and what we do — more jobs and more diverse job opportunities (like Color!) where traditional genetic counseling skills are utilized but where genetic counselors have the opportunity to develop new skills and are challenged in new ways.

What’s your favorite movie/TV show/novel?

Movie: Mean Girls
TV: Breaking Bad
Novel: Harry Potter

Ofri

Hometown: Originally from Israel

What led you to become a GC?

I love science, and genetics in particular, but didn’t enjoy lab work. The more I learned about the profession, the more it seemed like the perfect fit for me to be able to be involved in genetics while engaging with people.

What do you like most about being a genetic counselor today?

The rapid pace of changes in our profession; both in regards to advances in science, but also the profession’s innovation in the delivery of our services to reach more people that may not have been able to access genetic counselors. It’s very exciting 🙂

How do you see the field changing over the next 5 years?

Genetic testing will become ubiquitous and not reserved mainly for those with a personal or family history of a condition. Genetic counselors will continue to be a valuable resource for both providers and consumers in navigating how test results may impact their own health.

What advice would you give to aspiring genetic counselors?

Get into the profession because you have a passion for it; not to become rich 🙂

What’s your favorite movie/TV show/novel?

Old school sitcoms like Seinfeld

Anything else you’d like to share?

The way to say my name is uh-free like a free pen 🙂

Tags: , , , ,