3.12.2019

Supporting Students with March Madness

The Madness is upon us, and that means it's time to test your prognostication prowess in the most exciting tournament in sports! 


The University of Cincinnati/Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Genetic Counseling Program is hosting an NCAA Men’s Basketball Bracket Challenge. 


All proceeds benefit student scholarships. 

Here's your chance to both support the education of future genetic counselors and test your hoops expertise in the ultimate tournament pool!


To participate online, follow these instructions:



  • You may need to create an account at this link before completing your bracket
  • Make your tax-deductible donation here (or see below for other ways to donate): Donation
  • Complete your bracket once teams are announced on Selection Sunday (March 17th). Brackets must be completed before play begins on Thursday, March 21st.
  • Watch the madness unfold and cheer on your top picks!

If you prefer to donate in person, Alexandra Magnante or Preethi Pillai will be able to accept credit cards, checks, and cash beginning Wednesday, March 6th. Please email GCPMarchMadness@cchmc.org if you have any questions.

We are suggesting a tax-deductible donation of $15 but certainly appreciate any amount you are willing to contribute. Dr. and Mrs. Carl Huether are also currently offering a generous matching 3 to 1 gift so no amount is too small! Please consider forwarding this email to anyone else you think might be interested in participating. 


THANK YOU!

~UC Genetic Counseling Program


1.18.2019

Elective Rotation - Assisted Reproductive Technology

Becky McGowan, 2nd Year Student

One of the opportunities afforded to students in the UC genetic counseling program is the ability to select our own summer rotations.  Having an interest in the area of infertility and preconception genetic counseling, I worked with the program to find two unique rotation opportunities for the summer with genetic counselors at embryo testing laboratories.   In each of these rotations I was able to learn about the types of genetic tests available at the preconception stage, about effective methods for telephone counseling, and about the specific challenges and emotional burdens faced by the preconception patient population.

My first summer rotation was heavily focused on preimplantation genetic testing for single-gene conditions, or PGT-M (monogenic).  This test is available largely to those who know that they have a personal or family history of a condition such as Huntington’s disease, Fragile X, breast cancer, etc. with a known familial mutation already established. Often individuals may not have a family history, but are identified via carrier screening through their fertility clinic as being at risk to have a child with one of the tested genetic conditions.  Couples choosing to screen embryos via PGT-M are often seeking to stop the cycle of disease that has been in their family, or may have lost a child or had a child with a severe presentation and wish to use the technology available to choose to implant an embryo that would not carry the genetic mutation.  Often couples who use PGT-M may not have fertility concerns, but may be going through IVF specifically for this genetic test. 

In my second summer rotation I focused on preimplantation genetic screening for aneuploidy, or PGT-A.  This test screens embryos to see if there are extra or missing chromosomes (aneuploidy).  Having extra or missing chromosomes is the greatest factor in embryo implantation failure and early pregnancy loss. Performing this test increases the chance of establishing a pregnancy during IVF, while also screening for conditions such as Down syndrome, which typically is caused by an additional copy of chromosome 21. 

Since the counseling was performed remotely, I was able to experience a really diverse array of patient interactions. I worked with patients all over the country as well as internationally. I was able to work with same-sex couples, couples using surrogates or gamete donation, single individuals, couples facing male-factor infertility, female-factor infertility, or unexplained infertility.  Patients came to the genetic counseling sessions with different goals and different past experiences on their journey to conception. It was a tremendous opportunity to be a part of that process and allow patients a space to ask questions about genetic testing options. 

Genetic counseling consultations for both of these tests followed a similar structure to the in-person genetic counseling sessions I have been involved in during my other rotations! We started by contracting with the patients and asking what their hopes or goals were of the testing, as well as what information they had coming into the session. In many cases we took a pregnancy history, and for PGT-M cases, where other family members had the condition, we generally took a pedigree and inquired about relatives.  We also reviewed the available test reports and often contacted other laboratories or genetic counselors regarding previous testing or if remaining DNA was available.  The PGT-M cases involved designing a probe with samples of DNA from two generations of family members to track markers that sit above and below the gene of interest. We discussed residual risks, prenatal testing options, and set expectations with patients by discussing the potential outcomes of testing.  In both rotations we worked closely with the laboratory team to determine the best testing approach for each patient.  I also worked on responding to physician inquiries regarding specific patient concerns or testing questions. 

In my second rotation I also had the opportunity to put together and deliver two presentations on another genetic test, endometrial receptivity analysis (ERA).  I spoke about counseling considerations involving this test to staff at a fertility clinic, including nurses, physicians, and lab staff.  I also presented on the test design and the role of the genetic counselor in working with ERA patients for genetic counselors in the special interest group for ART and infertility through the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC).  These experiences allowed me to work on my public speaking skills and educate other providers about the benefit of genetic testing and genetic counseling. 

Overall, my summer rotations were a phenomenal learning experience.  Industry is a rising site for employment of genetic counselors, and it was a great chance to experience work at a for-profit laboratory setting.  Both of my summer sites were heavily involved in research and genetic counselors were encouraged to be involved in research projects.  It was great to see how genetic counselors in these positions are able to move the field forward and improve patient care.   I became very comfortable speaking with patients over the phone and being able to pick up on non-verbal cues to guide psychosocial counseling.  I often felt that patients were more comfortable being emotionally vulnerable over the phone and in the comfort of their own familiar setting, as opposed to in an unfamiliar clinic environment.  It was also very gratifying to be a part of the journey with women and couples who were seeking to build their families.

 - Becky McGowan, Second Year Student

11.16.2018

This Is What I Know. Now What Can We Do? – Racial Diversity in Genetic Counseling

Bryana Rivers, Cincinnati GC Student
The lack of diversity in the field of genetic counseling is an issue that has been present since the start of the profession. However, very few studies have actually been done on the presence of underrepresented minorities (URMs) in the field. A 2008 study by Mittman and Downs about the past, present, and future of diversity in our field explains that, despite efforts to increase diversity, the field of genetic counseling is still composed of over 94% non-Hispanic, white genetic counselors. The article focused on underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities within the field, such as African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans, quoting these groups as comprising about 2 to 3% of the profession, but about 33% of the general population. That means that our presence in the field is vastly disproportionate to our presence in the general population.

Increasing diversity in the field is important to allow individuals like me to have colleagues and mentors who look like me and so that our patients can have providers who look like them. As a black female entering the field of genetic counseling, I can only speak about my own experiences, which may not be the same for all genetic counselors who belong to a minority group. Nonetheless, I think that it’s important that I share my experiences and that others have the opportunity to share their experiences as well.

One particular experience that stood out to me occurred during my summer rotation here at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. My patients were siblings, a black male and a black female, with diagnoses of developmental disabilities and hypotonia. They were accompanied by their mother and their maternal grandmother. Both children previously had extensive genetic testing, including panel testing, single gene testing, and microarrays, which were all either normal or had several variants of uncertain significance (VUSs). For social reasons, variant tracking in the family was not attainable. What we did know, was that one particular VUS of interest was presumed to be paternally inherited.

Our patients’ mother was hoping to get some answers from us so that she could have a definitive diagnosis for her children. Without a diagnosis, she had been struggling to access the necessary resources they needed in school. Unfortunately, for this family, we could only communicate our suspicions of what was causing the developmental disability, but we could not give them a definitive cause, diagnosis, prognosis, or recurrence risk.

At one point during the appointment, the mother had a question for my supervisor and me. She stated that she had an honest question, but that she was unsure of how to ask it without coming across as offensive. We encouraged her to ask the question anyway. She wanted to know if we, as black health care providers, have seen “other people who look like us” with the same variant found in her children. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to say. I deferred the question to my supervisor who explained that the variant found in her children has not been previously published or described in other patients. She then went on to explain that the mother brought up a great point about VUSs in black patients. Being that we are a less-studied group, VUSs are more commonly seen in minority populations than in white populations. The patients’ mother added that she felt that there are barriers to healthcare and genetic testing in minority populations that also contribute to the lack of data and knowledge of how certain genetic variants affect our health. Afterwards, she told my supervisor and me that we have a responsibility as black women to improve our knowledge of genetic variants in minority populations while making sure that they are not being taken advantage of by the individuals conducting the research.

That was a loaded statement that I have reflected a lot on since I saw that family. In that moment I felt heartbroken for this woman who had worked so hard to obtain the best care for her children, but had so many doors closed in her face while trying to access the necessary resources. However, I also felt thankful that my supervisor and I were the ones who saw these patients because their mother was able to open up about questions she has been holding onto and challenges that she has been facing while advocating for her children.

I cannot stress enough how important it is for patients to feel comfortable, to feel heard, and to know that they will not be ignored or discriminated against by their providers based on the color of their skin. I don’t want to suggest that a genetic counselor who wasn’t black wouldn’t have listened to her, but there are factors outside of what we do and say that can have an impact on our patients. Just the fact that she was able to lower her guard a bit because we share the same racial background as her speaks volumes.

People like seeing themselves represented in their social and professional circles, including their healthcare providers. This is just one example of how increasing diversity in the field of genetic counseling can help our patients. But now the question is: Why have past efforts failed to improve diversity in the field, and what can we do to fix it?

--Bryana Rivers, 2nd Year Genetic Counseling Student

4.18.2018

Qualified Bilingual Staff & Language Access Services


QBS Badge Backer
Growing up, I spoke both English and Urdu – the native language of Pakistan, which is where my parents were from. I never considered my bilingual skills to be anything special until I started my time at the University of Cincinnati/Cincinnati Children’s Genetic Counseling Program. During our orientation week, a member of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s (CCHMC) Diversity and Inclusion department spoke with us about cultural competency. The presentation included information on Language Access Services, and a program called the “Qualified Bilingual Staff”. In CCHMC, if any staff/employees are bilingual, they can train through the hospital to be able to become a Qualified Bilingual Staff (QBS). A QBS member may
  
1) Provide interpreting to, or speak directly with patients and their families at the hospital outside their appointments in the target language, and/or

2) Provide interpreting to, or speak directly with patients and their families at the hospital during their medical appointments

To become a QBS member, one must first take an assessment in their target language, which in my case was Urdu. Since Urdu is considered a rare language, I took my assessment over the phone rather than in person. The assessment tested my spoken skills in Urdu, progressively becoming more difficult till I could no longer answer the questions being asked. Based on the assessment scoring, one is assigned either a QBS Level I or QBS Level II. 

Falling in the Level I range meant that you could provide interpreting to, or speak directly with patients and their families at the hospital outside their appointments, for example, if a patient is asking for directions in the hospital. Falling in the Level II range meant that you could provide interpreting to, and speak directly with patients and their families in the target language in their medical appointments. Fortunately, I was assigned to be Level II. An additional perk of being Level II is that you can get paid for providing interpreting for medical appointments! 

Before you can be recognized as a QBS member, you must first complete QBS training via CCHMC. I completed my training at the end of my first year in the genetic counseling program, right before I headed out of town to my summer rotation. Since returning to CCHMC for my second year, I have not provided any interpreting for medical appointments (by choice), but rather I have taken on a part time job with the Language Access Services department. At my job, I have worked to create a resource for interpreters whose target languages are rare, like mine. While there are plenty of resources available for interpreters of the more common languages such as Spanish and Arabic, there aren’t many training resources for interpreters who have rare target languages, such as Urdu. In creating this resource, I have also had the opportunity to shadow the CCHMC staff medical interpreters.

The experience of training as a QBS member, and working with Language Access Services has allowed me to appreciate the role of medical interpreters from the perspective of the interpreter. I realized how helpful this experience was when I myself counseled a patient with an Arabic medical interpreter present in the room. I found myself to be much more comfortable with the medical interpreter in the room, and it made the delivery of information to the client much more effective.

I am grateful to have been a part of an institution that has a well-developed Language Access Services department, and provides services every day to numerous patients and families with limited English proficiency. I am passionate about continuing to grow in my cultural competency, and my work with the Language Access Services has helped contribute to that by allowing me to better appreciate the intertwining nature of language and culture.

Fatima Amir, Class of 2018

12.07.2017

Elective Rotation: Informed Consent and Biobanking

Second year students in the UC/CCHMC GCP who are on track to complete their clinical logbook requirements are given the option to develop their own elective rotation. Students choose these rotations based on their interests or skills they would like to obtain. Along with input from program faculty, they develop the learning objectives and outcomes for their rotation. Previous elective rotation posts were about the International Adoption Center, StarshineHospice, Psychiatry, and Bioethics.

How are biobanks regulated? What information are patients provided during the informed consent process for biobank research enrollment? What is discussed when reviewing biobanking research protocols at an IRB meeting?

I learned about biobanking through lectures in Human Genetics and Emerging Topics in Clinical Genomics during my first year of the program. Genetic counselors are often asked to facilitate consent for research protocols involving genomics, as well as for participation in biobanks. Biobanks offer opportunities for researchers to access many patient samples and clinical data to facilitate research into therapeutics, natural history of disease, how genetics may influence disease states, etc. Genetic information is often collected, de-identified, and stored as part of this process. However, there is ongoing debate as to if and how genetic variants found through biobanking should be communicated to study participants.

Through networking with faculty members at the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, I set up a rotation with Dr. Kelsey Dillehay McKillip, Director, and her team at the University of Cincinnati Biorepository, as well as Dr. Mike Linke, IRB Chair, with the University of Cincinnati Institutional Review Board (IRB). At this time, the UC Biorepository is mostly composed of blood, urine, tumor and paired normal tissue samples from patients with solid cancers. The UC IRB has 20+ members with various professional backgrounds including biobanking, medicine, sociology, etc. The UC IRB meets every week for about two hours. Each IRB meeting was composed of at least eight different IRB members.

During my rotation, I observed the biobanking process from start to finish including screening patients to determine who met eligibility criteria, talking with eligible patients during the informed consent process, collecting and processing blood or tissue samples, and dispensing samples to researchers who have IRB approval for research that utilizes UC Biorepository specimens. I also attended UC IRB meetings where investigator-initiated biobanking protocols were discussed. The UC Biorepository is a core facility that supports basic scientists at UC and CCHMC, however there are also separate investigator initiated research protocols that can involve biobanking as well. Finally, I revised and consolidated multiple informed consent documents for different sample types into a universal consent document. Currently, if patients have different types of cancers, they are asked for their consent to participate in biobanking research for each individual cancer during their clinic visits. Therefore, the ultimate goal was to create a clear and concise consent form that would allow patients to provide consent once and provide multiple sample types for biobanking research in the future. The use of a universal consent form not only facilitates research, but also increases efficiency during patient clinic visits if patients only have to talk with one member of the research team at one time point.

Related to my knowledge in genetics, I was specifically tasked with adding language to the consent about how participants’ genetic information may be handled, as well as specific laws that protect this information (such as GINA: Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act). Further, I conducted a literature review about how changes in human subjects research policy impacts genetic information and the informed consent process. The majority of biobanks, including the UC Biorepository, do not report genetic research findings to participants. However, there is debate within the research community about the most ethical way to handle and store genetic information and whether it should be communicated to research participants.

My experience with the UC Biorepository team and the UC IRB will allow me to better explain the biobanking process to patients and anticipate questions an IRB may have about a research protocol that involves biospecimen collection. I thank Dr. Kelsey Dillehay and Dr. Mike Linke, as well as the UC Biorepository team members including Matt Koch, Farah Sagin, MS, and Karen Winstead for their time and supervision.

I am thankful that the UC graduate program encourages students to take responsibility for their education and seek opportunities that foster their personal and professional growth. Further, I thank my classmates and program faculty for facilitating my interests into action throughout my graduate career at UC.


--Kristen Fishler, Class of 2018

7.10.2017

NSGC "Prospectives in Genetic Counseling" newsletter

The National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) Student/New Member SIG has put together the third edition of their "Prospectives in Genetic Counseling" newsletter, which is geared toward prospective and new genetic counseling students.  It includes articles by recent alum Sarah Chadwell and current student Stacey Aldrich.  Check it out here:


Prospectives in Genetic Counseling Newsletter

5.25.2017

My Experience as a Second Year Genetic Counseling Student

One of the strengths that I have perceived within the Genetic Counseling Program at Cincinnati Children’s is the wealth of opportunities we have as students here. The first year of the training program is relatively academically heavy with significant coursework, group assignments, research experience, and clinical exposure. The second year of training offers more flexible time and an ability to truly tailor our learning experience. Over the last year, a variety of experiences and opportunities have shaped my professional and personal growth and I wanted to take some time to share that with all of you. Here is a short summary of some of the things I’ve done over the past year and a few pictures as well: https://jmshank.weebly.com

I had the privilege to be a LEND trainee in my second year. LEND stands for Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities. It is a federally funded program which seeks to cultivate leadership skills within clinical and non-clinical members of the disability community. Through LEND I gained an understanding of my own leadership skills and abilities while exploring how those skills fit within the greater context of advocacy and disability policy. The LEND program at Cincinnati Children’s this past year consisted of 24 trainees from 13 different disciplines. Attending classes and working on projects with the other LEND trainees has given me a broad understanding of multiple disciplines and how genetic counseling fits in the greater medical field. LEND afforded me many opportunities to travel for conferences and service trips as well as setting a foundation for lifelong learning and growth through work within the disability community.

Throughout the year I also attended a variety of conferences and experiential learning events. Specific to genetic counseling, I attended the Ohio Genetic Counselor’s conference in Cleveland and the National Society of Genetic Counselor’s conference in Seattle. We also had the chance to attend a bereavement conference in Columbus with other genetic counseling program students from the Midwest area. Related to my work with LEND, I was able to spend a week in Nicaragua working with a developmental pediatrician and a speech team. Our LEND cohort also took a trip to Columbus, the Ohio state capitol, to meet with our legislators for Disability Awareness day. We discussed up and coming bills and developed our own ways to tell our stories and advocate for our patients and their needs.

I also had the opportunity for non-clinical training opportunities. I was able to rotate in our lab at Cincinnati Children’s to gain an understanding of genetic testing technologies and methodologies. I worked with genetic counselors writing reports and interpreting variants in both the molecular and cytogenetic labs. Additionally, I was able to visit Myriad Genetics the summer before my second year which gave me hands-on exposure to industry and oncology genetics.

I am so grateful for my time at Cincinnati Children’s and the experiences I can take with me in my career. You get out of life what you put into it, but it comes back so much fuller. My second year of training has given me confidence in my skills and broadened my perspectives towards genetic counseling and the healthcare field as a whole. With a foundation set in strong clinical, practical, and relational skills as well as the ability to facilitate my own lifelong learning I couldn’t be more excited for my future. 

--Jessica Shank, 2017 graduate

6.06.2016

Traveling to Nicaragua

Hola!

A couple of months ago I embarked on a journey to Managua, Nicaragua with a team from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) to help provide different types of services, education, and support for children with disabilities and their families. You might ask how I got here…so let me back up.

As a second year genetic counseling student, I am a trainee in the LEND Program. LEND stands for Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities. This program is designed to train culturally competent, family-centered interdisciplinary leaders who will strive to improve the health of infants, children, and adolescents with or at risk for developmental disabilities. Trainees are afforded many opportunities through LEND during the year and traveling to Nicaragua was one opportunity that sparked my interest. I decided to apply, which consisted of an essay submission, and was offered a spot on the team. Ecstatic and terrified all at the same time, I committed and began planning. 

February arrived sooner than I had anticipated. Before I knew it, I was sitting on the plane from Houston to Nicaragua with different thoughts flooding my mind. What should I expect upon arrival? Would I be accepted by the people of Nicaragua? How will the language barrier impact our team’s goals? And most importantly, would I be able to help? Although CCHMC has a longstanding relationship with Tesoros de Dios (http://www.tesorosdedios.org), the organization we worked with, a genetic counseling trainee had never gone on this trip before.


After a long Saturday of traveling, we arrived in Mangua and settled into the guest house. Sunday was well spent exploring Granada, gathering souveniers, and eating a lot of plantains. I remember looking out at the lake and thinking to myself, “This is where I’m supposed to be.”

The next five days were a whirlwind. I was paired with Dr. Susan Wiley, co-director of the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at CCHMC and developmental and behavioral pediatrician. We saw new visits and follow-ups and I even counseled parents of patients while their child was receiving physical or speech therapy. I saw a variety of patients with different genetic conditions, including Rett syndrome, Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, Trisomy 21, Joubert syndrome, and others. I assessed parents’ perception of disability and offered psychosocial support to patients and families as needed. Due to cultural and social misconceptions about disability, there were often tears when I provided recurrence risk or limited liability.

In addition to the clinical focus, I contributed to a Developmental Disabilities Seminar with Dr. Wiley at University of Nicaragua-Managua. We spoke with professors, healthcare providers, and others in attendance about the field of developmental disabilities and sharing unexpected news with parents. Everyone was very warm, welcoming, and receptive to the information.

One of my goals for this opportunity was to recognize the role genetic counselors can play in the field of international disability and better understand the challenges individuals with disabilities and their families face in other countries. There is a lack of resources in Nicaragua in general, not to mention for those with disabilities. With only one genetic specialist, genetic testing is widely unavailable unless a patient travels to another country for services.

Another one of my goals was to gain more experience with other healthcare providers and specifically in the setting of international disability. I was able to observe psychologists, physical therapists, speech/language pathologists, and others provide services and recommendations to the patients as well as the staff of Tesoros de Dios. I know that the knowledge I gained there can be applied to the patient care that I will provide in the U.S.

The Nicaragua travel opportunity truly provided a basis for understanding international disability challenges, the lack of resources many countries have, and how genetic counselors can potentially play a role in the field. 

--Randa Newman, genetic counseling student



2.08.2016

Elective Rotation: Psychiatry

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and substance abuse/dependence.  These are all psychiatric illnesses and are all relatively common.  In fact, if you go through someone’s family history you will more than likely run across at least one family member with a history of mental illness.  But how many of them can be seen running in families and have a known genetic component?  If you said all of them, you are correct.

Most of our training as genetic counseling students is focused on less common diseases with better characterized genetics: cystic fibrosis, Lynch syndrome, neurofibromatosis 1 & 2, sickle cell anemia, etc.  However, we all invariably encounter families containing members with more common diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and, of course, mental illness.  While we do receive training in discussing the genetics of these conditions with patients, we rarely get to see patients for whom these diseases and how they affect their families are a main concern. 

Cincinnati Genetic Counseling Program
As a person whose life has been tremendously impacted by mental illness in many ways, I have been especially interested in learning more about these conditions. I was also interested in learning about the experiences of individuals and families affected by these conditions, including  ways to help people cope with mental illness and decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness.

One of the greatest aspects of the University of Cincinnati’s genetic counseling program is that we have the option to do an elective rotation in our second year.  An even better feature is that we have the opportunity and the support to create a rotation if we have a specific interest.  After discussing my interest in psychiatry with our program faculty, I talked to the director of the Division of Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s who was very interested in the idea of an elective rotation and helped me set up a 5-week observational rotation with a few psychiatrists.

During my rotation, I shadowed three psychiatrists in very different settings.  I was in a general pediatric psychiatry setting, the Tuberous Sclerosis clinic, and an inpatient unit for children with both psychiatric diagnoses and developmental disabilities.  I saw a total of 19 patients outside of the inpatient unit with a wide variety of psychiatric diagnoses, averaging three per patient.

I learned quite a bit about different psychiatric illnesses: how they are diagnosed, how they present, and how they are treated.  Along those same lines, I was able to create a resource for myself and others containing a list of commonly prescribed medications and what they are primarily used to treat.  During my rotation, I picked up as many resources as I could find in the form of flyers, newsletters, and pamphlets that are specific to the psychiatric services at Cincinnati Children’s.

I hope that my experience in psychiatry and in setting up the rotation will inspire others to pursue a similar rotation.  As psychiatric genetic counseling becomes more widespread, it will be easier for others to get involved in talking to families about the genetics of mental illness.  For now, though, I think it is important that we start that conversation with psychiatry and really show them our interest in merging the two fields.

- Meghann Reardon, second year student

10.27.2015

2015 Ohio Genetic Counselor Meeting

A few weeks ago, I attended the 2015 Annual Ohio Genetic Counselors Meeting along with my classmates Kait and Meghann. This was our first genetic counseling conference and we were excited to find out what was discussed and what the event would be like.

The conference was in Columbus and consisted of eight different 30-45 minute presentations. The presentations covered a variety of topics relevant to genetic counseling, including the newest therapies in development for muscular dystrophies, perinatal ethics, and new technology for biopsy free tumor sequencing and how it may impact cancer treatment. While it was a long day of sitting and listening to lectures, the short length of each one and the wide variation in topics kept the meeting engaging.

One thing that I realized while listening to the lectures was how much I understood. I was able to make connections to the patients I’ve seen and clinics I’ve rotated in. Only a year ago I was taking quizzes on medical terminology and just starting to learn how to take pedigrees. I can’t believe how much I have learned and grown in the past year.

During the break for lunch, we sat with a couple of our classmates who graduated last May and have now been working for a few months. This was a great opportunity to learn about the transition from graduate training into working and how that has been for them. We were also able to get advice about the job search process and studying for the board exam. The environment in the lunch room was loud and exciting, as many people had the opportunity to sit and talk with old classmates and colleagues who they had not seen since last year.

After the conference, we were also able to network with the genetic counseling students from Ohio State and Case Western who were also at the meeting. This was a very fun opportunity to learn more about their programs and discuss particularly interesting indications that we’ve gotten to see. 

Overall, I had a lot of fun attending the Ohio Genetic Counselors Meeting. It was a good learning opportunity to find out more about the topics presented and what a conference is like. In addition, I really enjoyed getting to feel part of a larger community of genetic counselors.


--Hayley Grandine, second year student