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The Class of 2019 Chose Pitt Because...

Alyssa Azevedo Why I chose Pitt: I chose Pitt because it embodied so many qualities I desired in a genetic counseling program and what stood out most was its warm, supportive, and collaborative nature. Students have an opportunity to play a dynamic role in the program by offering insight and advice on how to improve curriculum for future students and the option to customize their education with different degree options. The program encourages you to obtain a student position that often provides thesis research and the opportunity to practice your genetic counseling skills in a work environment. I also loved the program structure. Students take the majority of their coursework in the first year and focus on clinical rotations in the second. This foundational knowledge will support me while I interact with a variety of patients and cases.
Background: Independent Living Skills Instructor for adults with developmental disabilities, Laboratory Technician and Lab Manager at a biology production lab, Undergraduate Researcher at U.C. Davis Center for Neuroscience, Biology TA at CSU Sacramento, Volunteer Crisis Counselor for Crisis Text Line, Pediatric Genetic Counseling Shadowing at U.C. Davis MIND Institute
Work Position: Research Assistant in the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics
Alyssa Azevedo (B.S. Biological Sciences, Concentration: Cell & Molecular, Minor in Chemistry, California State University, Sacramento, 2013)

Caitlin Russell Why I chose Pitt: I love that Pitt trains us to be genetic counselors within the context of public health. With the the field’s growing scope, this emphasis is particularly relevant and will enable us to take our careers in many different directions. The program’s dual degree, certificate, and PhD programs underline this strength. I also appreciate that the program not only allows students to hold jobs, but helps us find positions that are relevant to our thesis and future career. Lastly, Pittsburgh seems to be an incredibly friendly city: I love the idea of learning and working in this community!
Background: Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry TA (Swarthmore College); Undergraduate Thesis Research (Chemistry Department, Swarthmore College); Class Aid at Children and Adult Disability Services; Genetic Counseling Internship (Northwestern University); YMCA Reach and Rise Mentor; Research Associate (Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease); GC Shadow at Kaiser Permanente (San Francisco, CA); Billing Specialist and Government Billing Team Manager (Counsyl Inc)
Work Position: Genetic Counseling Student Worker at the Children's Sickle Cell Foundation
Caitlin Russell (B.A. Biochemistry, Swarthmore College 2011)

Charlotte Ernst Why I chose Pitt: Pitt began to stand out almost from the moment I began researching and comparing genetic counseling programs across the U.S. Throughout my exploration of the structure and curriculum, to applying and being accepted, I have seen a program that exudes a wonderful sense of camaraderie, respect, and warmth towards its students. After interviewing, I was confident that Pitt would provide a dynamic and supportive environment for my education. The program is organized with classes taking place the first year, and the bulk of your clinical work and rotations occurring in the second year. This gave me confidence, knowing I would have the relevant theoretical information first, then be able to switch my focus and start applying it in a clinical setting. I also decided to take advantage of the highly integral dual degree program Pitt offers (MS/MPH track). I know that having a degree in Public Health will be an asset to me as the field of Genetic Counseling continues to expand, encompassing more responsibility over the education of the public and the accessibility of information on issues of genetics.
Background: Cytogenetic Technologist (Quest Diagnostics Nichols Institute), Volunteer (Doorways for Women and Families), Shadowing (Genetics and IVF Institute and INOVA Translational Medicine Institute, Fairfax, VA), Orthodontic Assistant (NOVA Orthodontics), Recreational Aide/Teacher Assistant (Langley AFB Summer Children's Program), Mentor/Program Organizer (AmeriCorps, The Hampton Teen Center), Undergraduate Research Assistant (Biology Department, Christopher Newport University)
Work Position: Research Assistant in the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics
Charlotte Ernst Skinner, (B.S. Biology, Minor in Chemistry, Christopher Newport University, 2011)

Kelsey Bohnert Why I chose Pitt: When I started researching genetic counseling programs, Pitt stood out because of its reputation and legacy.  The more I learned about the program’s structure, the more I loved the idea of tailoring your education to fit your career goals.  What really sealed my choice, however, was the the people.  Through the whole application and interview process, every person I spoke to was clearly invested in student success.  From the administrative staff and interviewers to the directors, every conversation was productive and supportive. Even reading the blog post by current students showed how happy they were with their choice and how excited they were for their futures.  You start off knowing that they are invested in you and your goals. 
Background: Teach for America Educator, Crisis Hotline Volunteer, GC shadowing at University of Missouri Hospital (oncology, pediatrics, prenatal, metabolic disorders), Undergraduate Researcher (Thompson Center for Autism, University of Missouri Psychology Department), Student Research Assistant (U.S. Geological Survey),  Peer Advisor at the University of Missouri, Volunteer Coordinator at Mustard Seed Fair Trade
Work Position: Virtual Data Entry Clerk with GeneDx Inherited Cancer Dept
Kelsey Bohnert (M.Res. in Translational Medicine, University of Manchester, 2017; B.A. in Biology and Psychology, Minor in Leadership and Public Service, University of Missouri, 2012)

Megan Hoenig Why I chose Pitt: The program at Pitt is the second oldest and has a strong emphasis on public health. This appealed to me because I wanted to attend a program with rich history and provides a broader perspective for the future of Genetic Counseling. Furthermore, the camaraderie between the students, having a wide variety of clinic settings (within a walk or a bus ride away), and a city with fantastic (free to students) public transportation system made Pitt desirable. Pitt’s program allows for you to have a fantastic foundation with a plethora of resources to succeed. I know that I will get a fantastic education here while adventuring the Steel City.
Background: Genetic Testing Coordinator at Baylor Genetics Laboratory, Genetic Counseling Shadowing at Baylor College of Medicine (prenatal, adult, and cancer) and Dallas Children’s Hospital (pediatric), Volunteer at Student Counseling HelpLine, Volunteer at Camp Summit, Undergraduate Researcher, University Honors Program Peer Mentor, Microbiology Laboratory TA
Work Position: Research Assistant for Lysosomal Storage Disorders Registry at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
Megan Hoenig (B.S. in Genetics and Biomedical Sciences, Minor in Psychology, Texas A&M University 2016) 

Meghan Cunningham Why I chose Pitt: The structure of the program is what initially attracted me along with the abundance of rotations built into the program; experiencing so many different clinical sites will provide us with an opportunity to see which specialties and type of health system are best suited for us.  Also, the Dual Degree option and the program’s overall focus on Public Health align with my professional and personal philosophies concerning health care.  The feature that really sold me, though, was the faculty and staff.  Pitt feels like a family that is eager to support you in all that you do.
Background: Genomic Medicine Intern (Geisinger Medical Center); Ethics Teaching Assistant (Penn State University); Student Leader (Cross Age Drug and Alcohol Awareness Program); Activities Volunteer (Southern Care Hospice); Operations Assistant (Ground Floor Music and Youth Center); Child Care (Williamsport, PA).
Work Position: TBA
Meghan Cunningham (A.A.S. Individual Studies, Pennsylvania College of Technology, 2014; B.S. Biobehavioral Health, Pennsylvania State University, 2016)

Natasha Robin Berman Why I chose Pitt:The Pitt program being a part of the school of public health is more than just its physical location.  It provides the opportunity to take courses with other students in genetics or public health while also still having genetic counseling specific courses.  This really spoke to me as a way to create a well rounded education that would benefit me in a future professional role.  The Pittsburgh program, as the second oldest, had a well established reputation and an extensive alumni network.  I enjoyed how well the students and faculty and staff all got along, the supportive environment was incredibly important for me when determining my graduate program.  It didn’t hurt that Pittsburgh is an all around amazing city.
Background: Developmental Biology TA (SUNY Purchase), Genetic Counseling Assistant Danbury Hospital, Kids in Crisis Safe Talk Facilitator, Organizer of Jewish Genetics workshop for Young Jewish Professionals CT, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Patient Advocate (Patient Finance)
Work Position: Genetic Counseling Program Teaching Assistant
Natasha Robin Berman (M.A. International Conflict, University of Kent 2010, B.A. International Relations, Minor in Dance, Knox College 2008)

Rachel Sutton Why I chose Pitt: I chose Pitt because I really liked having most of the coursework in the first year, followed by clinical rotations in the second year. I felt that having the courses first would better prepare me for interacting with patients. Additionally, having clinicals at world-renowned hospitals in two different healthcare systems seemed to be a unique opportunity not many programs had to offer. From attending open houses while an undergrad at Pitt, I loved seeing the interactions between the Faculty, Staff, and Students, and how highly they spoke of the program, especially of its established history and vast alumni network.  And of course, Pittsburgh itself is a great city with awesome sports, museums, parks, and restaurants!
Background: Helpline volunteer for Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, Pitt Genetic Counseling Club Business Manager, Microbiology Laboratory TA, GC Shadowing at Magee Women’s Hospital and AHN Wexford Health + Wellness Pavilion
Work Position: TBA
Rachel Sutton (B.S. Major in Biological Sciences, Minors in Chemistry and Social Work, University of Pittsburgh, 2017)

Rebecca Clark Why I chose Pitt: The confidence-building model of Pitt’s curriculum aligns with my personal learning style preference. I will be able to develop a solid foundation from coursework during my first year to get the most out of the hands-on clinical experience during second-year rotations in both of Pittsburgh’s major hospital systems. Also, I love everything about Pittsburgh. From the welcoming faculty and students to the accessibility of classes and hospitals by public transportation, I could not have imagined myself anywhere else!
Background: Therapeutic Support Staff (Family Behavioral Resources), Crisis Hotline Counselor (Centre Helps), Information Desk Volunteer (Allegheny Health Network), Lifeway Pregnancy Center Volunteer, Center for Neuroscience Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow (Univ. of Pittsburgh), Psychology Department Research Assistant (Penn State and Saint Vincent College), Biology and Psychology TA (Penn State), GC Shadowing at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, AHN Health + Wellness Pavilion, and Geisinger Medical Center
Work Position: Genetic Counselor Assistant at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
Rebecca Clark (B.S. Biology, Concentration: Genetics and Development and B.S. Psychology, Concentration: Life Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, 2016) 

Samantha Afonso Why I chose Pitt: I chose Pitt because of the diverse educational opportunities (certificates/ dual degrees) that it provides. I felt that their program structure allows students to get the full-time professional experience that will best prepare us for life as genetic counsellors. The interview experience definitely didn’t hurt either! Pittsburgh is a beautiful city, having the opportunity to get experience in different hospital systems and with diverse populations was really essential to me choosing Pitt as my graduate school!
Background: The Lighthouse Program for Grieving Children (Oakville); Teaching Assistant at the University of Waterloo; Coordinator of the UW Women’s Centre; Volunteer Director of the UW MATES Program; Volunteer at Crime Victims’ Helpline (Ireland); Research Assistant in lab studying P. falciparum (Germany); GC Shadowing at Mt. Sinai (Toronto), Credit Valley (Mississauga), and Grand River (Kitchener) Hospitals.
Work Position: Genetic Counseling Assistant UPMC Shadyside GI Lab
Samantha Afonso (Bachelors of Knowledge Integration Joint Honours Biology, Minor in Philosophy, The University of Waterloo, 2017)

Sarah Brunker Why I chose Pitt: I chose the University of Pittsburgh because of the history and strength of the program.  The program leadership is engaged and has a great “confidence building” model.  I love the availability of the Dual Degree Program in MPH Genetics.  There is a strong Human Genetics Department in the School of Public Health that is doing cutting-edge research.  Additionally, the large number of clinical sites and the excellent reputation of the surrounding hospitals was a major factor in my evaluation of the program.
Background: Adjunct Instructor Chemistry Department (College of DuPage), Surgical Care Pavilion & Diagnostic Imaging/Mammography volunteer (Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital), Mental Health First Aid USA workshop participant (DuPage County National Alliance on Mental Illness), STEM-CON volunteer (College of DuPage), 2012 Bioanalytical Sensors Gordon Research Seminar Chair Elect (Salve Regina University), Laboratory Workshop on Techniques in Molecular Biology participant (The Pennsylvania State University), Writing Center consultant (Coe College), Shadowed genetic counselors. in oncology unit (Advocate Christ Medical Center)
Work Position: NYMAC Hotline Genetic Counseling Graduate Student Worker
Sarah Brunker (Ph.D. in Chemistry, The Pennsylvania State University, 2010; B.A. in Chemistry and Secondary Education, Minor in Writing, Coe College, 2004)


Claire Leifeste Why I chose Pitt: The program at Pitt appealed to me for a variety of reasons. The dual degree program drew me in because I am interested in community health. I knew getting an additional degree in public health would expand my opportunities in the profession. The city of Pittsburgh was also exciting to me, as it has a large health network and is a great place for young adults!  
Background: Cancer Genetics Intern (Medical City Dallas Hospital), Hotline Volunteer (Project Horizon), Developmental Biology Independent Research (Washington and Lee University), Molecular Genetics Research Intern (UT Southwestern Medical Center)
Work position:  Student Worker for NYMAC Regional Genetics Network
Claire Leifeste (B.S. Major in Neuroscience, minor in Poverty and Human Capabilities, Washington and Lee University, 2016.)

Emily Mazzei Why I chose Pitt: I really like the way the program is structured. Students are able to build a strong knowledge base during the first year of the program, that they are then able to apply in their clinical rotations during their second year. Because the program is housed in the School of Public Health, I think it lends a unique perspective when learning about the field of genetic counseling and how relevant public health really is. I also like that students are encouraged to find a work position while in the program, oftentimes being able to incorporate their thesis project into their hourly work position.
Background: CASA volunteer, Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Research Assistant in the IU Psychology department, STEM summer camp counselor
Work position: Genetic Counseling Student Worker at the Children's Sickle Cell Foundation
Emily Mazzei (B.A. Majors in Psychology, German, Indiana University-Bloomington, 2014)

Emily Spoth Why I chose Pitt: The program is very well established, with great connections both within Pennsylvania health networks for clinical rotations and beyond. However, what really made me choose Pitt was the feeling I got when I visited for an interview. I loved the camraderie between the now-second years, the program’s leadership, and above all, the overwhelming sense that Pitt was the program for me.
Background: Rochester Center for Youth phone counselor, GC shadowing at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo and Roswell Park Cancer Institute, EMT, science tutor
Work position: Cutis Laxa Study Coordinator at Pitt Public Health
Emily Spoth (BS Biomedical Sciences, Concentration in Psychology, Rochester Institute of Technology, 2015)

Jaclyn Amurgis Why I Chose Pitt: I chose Pitt because the program provides the opportunity to become familiar with a wide variety of different cases during clinical rotations by working with the many prestigious hospitals throughout Pittsburgh. I also enjoyed that the program includes an optional rotation that allows you to learn more about non-traditional areas of genetic counseling that relate to the specific interests of each student. Overall, Pittsburgh provides an inviting and vastly developing environment to live in along with a uniquely progressive medical community to become involved with.
Background: Telephone bereavement support volunteer for VITAS Hospice, shadowing of cancer and prenatal genetic counselors through Allegheny Health Network, shadowing of pediatric genetic counselors at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, undergraduate research assistant in an evolutionary-developmental genetics lab, rehab assistant in a physical therapy clinic
Work position: Genetic Counseling Assistant at Allegheny General Hospital 
Jaclyn Amurgis (B.S. Major in Biology, Minor in Chemistry, Certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, 2014)

Jennifer Peck Why I chose Pitt: I appreciated that classes are taken in the first year, leaving the second year devoted mostly to rotations, which are all easily accessible by bus rather than having to buy a car. I was also impressed with how the leadership take student feedback and changes in the field into account and are constantly working to make the curriculum better. Being housed in a public health program was a very unique aspect that I thought was fitting for genetic counseling. Lastly, the faculty and students really sold me on all the positives of living in Pittsburgh itself!
Background: Online Writing Tutor, Biology Tutor, Jump Start Freshman Mentor, Vice President and Social Media Strategist for the Secular Student Alliance at ASU, prenatal genetic counselor shadowing
Work Position: Graduate Student Worker and Researcher, Medical Genetics, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
Jennifer Peck (B.S. Biological Sciences (Genetics, Cell, & Developmental Bio), B.A. French, Arizona State University, 2016) 

Joya Petersen Why I chose Pitt: I chose Pitt because I love the public health emphasis and diversity of courses offered by the program empowering students to become more competitive in the health industry and pursue non-traditional roles as genetic counselors. I was further enthused by the fact students are able to cultivate their own extensive professional network prior to entering the workforce through the numerous research, job, and other opportunities that Pitt offers in addition to its dynamic alumni network.
Background: Undergraduate Research Coordinator (Designing for Equity in Thinking in and About Mathematics Project), Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (American Sign Language 2), Peer Advisor (Arts and Sciences Advising, Univ. of Pittsburgh), Peer Mentor (Partners in Progress, Univ. of Pittsburgh), Volunteered doing home cased care visits for AIDS/HIV patients in Tanzania
Work position: Genetic Counseling Assistant at Magee Women's Hospital 
Joya Petersen (B.S. Major in Molecular Biology, Minor in Chemistry, Certificate in American Sign Language, University of Pittsburgh, 2016)

Julia Spoth Why I Chose Pitt: I may be a California girl, but when I interviewed here at Pitt I felt that I was home. I completely fell in love with the city of Pittsburgh, and I was swept away by the friendliness and enthusiasm of the students and faculty. Pitt’s program has the clinical diversity and research emphasis I was looking for, and I appreciated the professionalism, organization, and opportunities unique to such a well-established program. The accessibility of rotation sites and ability to work while pursuing my degree were added bonuses that helped seal the deal.
Background: Special Education Instructional Assistant, undergraduate research assistant in both Environmental Toxicology and Psychology research labs, genetics course tutor
Work position: Clinical Research Assistant at TRiNDS (Therapeutic Research in Neuromuscular Disorders Solutions)
Julia Stone (B.S. in Genetics, minor in Psychology, University of California, Davis 2014)

Julia Verbiar Why Choose Pitt: Having fallen in love with Pittsburgh during undergrad, I was thrilled that Pitt’s Genetic Counseling Graduate Program offers an incredible opportunity to learn in a unique, well-established, and well-connected environment. I look forward to doing rotations in world renowned health care systems of UPMC and AHN. I like how the program is structured to front load coursework and you can tailor your coursework in the Graduate School of Public Health to provide a unique perspective on the field. I also appreciate how the program leadership understand that grad school is expensive and encourage students to obtain paid work positions they can use for their thesis project.
Background: Undergraduate Molecular Biology Researcher, Patient Navigation Volunteer, Domestic Violence Advocate, Colleges Against Cancer Vice President, Undergraduate TA for Introductory Genetics Course, Summer Institute for Training in Biostatistics Participant, Genetic Counseling Intern
Work Position: Research Assistant in the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics
Julia Verbiar (BS Major in Molecular Biology, Minor in Chemistry, University of Pittsburgh, 2016)

Kaitlin Sullivan Why I chose Pitt: I chose the Pitt program partly because of its situation in the School of Public Health and larger size, which allow for collaboration and a variety of perspectives. I also liked the timing of rotations and the balance between classes and rotations. The ability to stay in Pittsburgh for all our rotations was also hugely important, as well as the variety of hospital and medical systems. Of course, the city itself was a big draw, with its amazing museums, parks, and general culture!
Background: Research technician and lab manager in neuroscience and psychiatry labs, volunteer tutoring and childcare (Salvation Army Emergency Women and Children’s Shelter), volunteering in service fraternity (Alpha Phi Omega).
Work position: Research Assistant for Dr. Lisa Pan
Kaitlin Sullivan (B.S. Biology, Minor in Anthropology, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, 2015)

Megan Hager Why I chose Pitt: One of the most striking things about Pitt is how well students, faculty and staff get along. Having a collaborative work environment is very important to me, and was a large factor in my decision-making process. I also like that I can pursue the MS/MPH dual degree program, because I believe it will allow me to better help my future clients. To top it off, Pittsburgh is a great city with a rich history, so I was very excited to move here.
Background: Genetic Counseling Intern (Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital of Indianapolis), Genetic Counseling Shadowing (University of Missouri – Women’s and Children’s Hospital, St. Vincent Hospital of Indianapolis), Life Skills Instructor for Adults with Mental Illness (Aspire Indiana), Ronald McDonald House (Front Desk Volunteer), Member of a Community Service Sorority (Little Sisters of the Gold Rose).
Work Position: Genetic Counseling Program Teaching Assistant
Megan Hager (B.S. Major in Biological Sciences, B.A. Major in Spanish, University of Missouri, 2015)

Seth Lascurain Why I chose Pitt: I chose Pitt because the program is well established and has stood the test of time, but does not rest on tradition too much. The program remains innovative in structure, content, and execution by listening to its students and faculty and making regular improvements based on their feedback. Pitt also offers an attractive dual degree in Public Health Genetics, as well as a host of certificate programs and even a Doctoral option for those wanting to continue their education even further. All that, housed in the city of Pittsburgh, with free public transit… the choice was easy.
Background: Genetic counselor shadowing (Magee-Women's Hospital, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh), Undergraduate research in Cognitive Psychology (Edinboro University), Parent to three wonderful children (one with special needs).
Work Position: Genetic Counseling Assistant at Magee Womens Hospital
Seth Lascurain (B.S. in Psychology, Edinboro University 2015)


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