Genetic Counseling Class, Dual Degree Student, Class of 2016
After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh Genetic Counseling Program in 2016, I began practicing as a prenatal genetic counselor at Swedish Maternal and Fetal Specialty Center in Seattle, WA. I worked within a multidisciplinary team of healthcare providers that included ten genetic counselors. Four of these genetic counselors were Pitt graduates!
I am originally from Canada, and decided to return to my hometown of Calgary, AB in 2017. I am currently working as a Lab Genetic Counselor with Genetics and Genomics at Alberta Public Laboratories. A large part of my position involves practicing utilization management and creating funding policies to inform genetic testing ordering practices. I also work as a Researcher and Content Writer for ThinkGenetic Inc.
When I was applying to graduate school, many Canadian genetic counselors that I spoke with recommended applying to the University of Pittsburgh Genetic Counseling Program. The Program has an excellent reputation worldwide, with a large alumni network given that it is the second oldest genetic counseling program. This alumni network helped me secure my first job out of graduate school.
There are many genetic counselors currently practicing in the city of Pittsburgh. These genetic counselors have advocated for the profession, creating new roles for genetic counselors in clinical specialties, utilization management, and research. They support and supervise genetic counseling students through a variety of clinical and non-clinical rotations, allowing students to learn about the different ways in which genetic counselors can be integrated into the healthcare system.
My training at the University of Pittsburgh taught me about the value of genetic counselors and continues to inspire me as I think about the ways in which the genetic counseling profession can be expanded in Canada.
Genetic Counseling Class of 2009
I am the Chief Operating Officer for the Therapeutic Research in Neuromuscular Disorders Solutions (TRiNDS), a company specializing in clinical research for rare and neuromuscular disorders. I run the daily operations and procedures as well as oversee Clinical Operation Solutions and a team of Project Managers.
After completing my undergraduate degree in microbiology and immunology at the University of Miami, I relocated to Pittsburgh in 2004 with the intention of applying to the University of Pittsburgh Genetic Counseling Program. I was drawn to Pittsburgh’s strong medical community and the reputation of the genetic counseling program and alumni. My work as a clinical coordinator and eventually project manager at the University of Pittsburgh strengthened my desire to work in the field of clinical and research genetics. This led to my thesis on the disease-causing mutations in Duchenne muscular dystrophy connecting me to the international neuromuscular community and directing my career path. The University of Pittsburgh Genetic Counseling Program, clinical supervisors and networking experiences played a critical role in building my confidence to take on leadership roles in all aspects of my career. In line with my interest in clinical research, the Program Directors were encouraging of pursuing non-clinical opportunities and remain mentors long after they became colleagues.
Genetic Counseling Class of 2009
After graduating from the Genetic Counseling Program in 2009, I accepted a position with GeneDx, a company that specializes in genetic testing for hereditary conditions. I have found that I have been able to easily apply what I learned at school into the workplace. My work at GeneDx does not involve day-to-day contact with patients; however, I am in constant contact with other counselors and geneticists through out the day discussing testing options for various clinical cases. A significant portion of my job involves writing genetic test reports for various conditions. This helps me keep up-to-date with the scientific literature, making sure that clients are receiving the most current information, and provides me the opportunity to study a wide breadth of conditions.
A nice advantage of working in a lab setting is being able to more fully understand the testing process (the different techniques used, how tests are developed, etc.). This allows me to discuss the results of a test more easily and gives me a greater understanding of the limitations of testing as well. Other components of my job include creating educational materials for both counselors and patients, attending various conferences and seminars to both further my education and to discuss new testing options that we offer. Rarely is there a day where I don't learn something new and that is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. I feel fortunate that my training at the University of Pittsburgh prepared me to enter such a challenging and dynamic position.
Katie Long, MS, LCGC
Genetic Counseling Class of 2007
I began my career as a genetic counselor at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation Genomic Medicine Institute and was quickly presented with an opportunity to return to my “hometown city” to coordinate the Lysosomal Storage Disorders (LSD) Program at the University of Pittsburgh/Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. There I provided genetic counseling and coordination for the LSD Program until 2014 when I also added the role of genetic counseling supervisor at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. In 2016, I decided to explore a new opportunity as a medical science liaison (MSL) with Sanofi Genzyme Rare Disease.
In my role as MSL, I interact with leaders and developing leaders in the lysosomal storage disorders field in a four state area through scientific information exchange, disease education, and championing the interests of investigators with regard to investigator-sponsored studies, clinical trials and the Lysosomal Storage Disease Registries.
I have an immense amount of pride and gratitude for the training I received at the University of Pittsburgh Genetic Counseling Program. It was here that I learned to think critically about the issues surrounding genetic diagnosis and information delivery and communication. I was introduced to the passion and sincere sense of service to the rare disease community modeled by the clinical site supervisors. I am especially appreciative of genetic counselor Nadene Henderson for introducing me to the LSDs and demonstrating the unique impact of a specialty genetic counselor.
Although I could not have foreseen the path of my career, I can see at every turn the skills the Pitt Genetic Counseling Program equipped me with in order to assess, navigate, and lead. As the scope and roles for genetic counselors evolve and flourish, I am certain the Pitt Genetic Counseling Program will be at the forefront of developing courses and content that enables graduates to thrive.
Genetic Counseling Class of 2007
I received a Bachelors degree in Biology and Anthropology from University of Wisconsin-Madison (1998), and participated in the University of Pittsburgh's dual degree program in Genetic Counseling and Public Health, graduating in 2007. I have always been interested in a multidisciplinary approach to learning and found the Public Health coursework to be an excellent compliment to Pittsburgh's Genetic Counseling program. This direction of study also provided the unique opportunity to combine my interest in international genetic counseling with a special project in public health that took me to India, along with Betsy Gettig, MS. I felt that the Directors and Professors at the University of Pittsburgh encouraged both creativity and innovative thought in the field of Genetic Counseling, making for an exciting, didactic environment.
Following graduation from the University of Pittsburgh, I began working as a Genetic Counselor and Metabolic Clinic Coordinator at Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento. I remained interested in the intersection of public health and genetic counseling and enjoyed seeing metabolic patients, newly diagnosed by newborn screening. I was also able to participate in the implementation of California's newborn screening program for Cystic Fibrosis. Currently, I am working as a clinical Genetic Counselor at Kaiser, San Francisco. This position has allowed me to generalize my scope and see a wide variety of cases including, metabolic, pediatric, adult, cancer and prenatal. I believe that my experience at the University of Pittsburgh has given me a solid foundation of knowledge and unique perspective on the field of genetic counseling.
Genetic Counseling Class of 1995
I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Biology from University of Maryland, College Park, received a Master’s degree in Genetic Counseling from the University of Pittsburgh, and am certified by the American Board of Genetic Counselors. I am currently an Assistant Professor at Howard University and the Co-Director of the Howard University Genetic Counseling Training Program, where I teach graduate and medical students, as well as residents in various specialties. In addition to my academic duties, I provide genetic counseling services for patients at Howard University Hospital for a variety of referral reasons, in areas including prenatal, pediatric, adult, and cancer genetics. I serve as the Director for Community Outreach and Education for the HU Center for Sickle Cell Disease. I was the chair of the Public Policy Committee of the National Society of Genetic Counselors from 2007-2009, and currently serve on its Membership Committee, with a particular interest in diversity issues in membership and service delivery. From 2003- 2005, I was a member of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Society, under U.S. Secretary of Health Michael O. Leavitt. I believe my training at the University of Pittsburgh provided me with a broad array of skills that have allowed me to serve in leadership positions within the profession, to educate both health care professionals and the public about genetic issues, and to help those coping with genetic diseases.