First Quarter Wrap-up

With our first quarter wrapping up and winter rolling in, it has been a very busy few weeks for us at the UC/CCHMC Genetic Counseling program.  With the unseasonably warm weather, it has been a challenge for us to start buckling down and studying for our finals next week.  The second years came back from the NSGC conference in San Diego and we were all very jealous.  It sounds like they had a blast at the conference and I can’t wait to go next year.  It is nice to look forward to three weeks without Molecular Genetics exams, lectures, or all of our other time commitments in a busy schedule with winter break coming up.  It hasn’t been all work though, we have still found time to get together to have a Thanksgiving feast with our classmates, tried many local eateries together, and have had volunteer activities such as PROM and VCFS support group.  It has so far been a very rewarding experience and it is shaping up to be a wonderful end to 2011. 
As a first year, I also started clinic rotations since my last blog post.  All of us first years are in an observational rotation with various clinics.  I am in general pediatrics right now and have learned so much from just observing a genetic counselor for a few cases a week, as well as figuring out case prep, EPIC, and case summaries.  It is just as exciting as I thought it would be, and I think everyone else in the year agrees.  I am learning more than I had hoped about specific disorders, and have seen a few really interesting cases.  We are getting more into role plays in class with IGC , and this helps with clinic too as we are practicing empathy, contracting, and medical intakes.  I am looking forward to lysosomal storage disorder clinic next quarter, as that will bring on a whole new set of genetic conditions for me to learn about, as well as taking on a role or two.  Yikes!
Recently we first years have gotten our thesis matches which we will be spending the next year and a half on.  There were many interesting topics, such as exomic sequencing, personalized medicine, and a study looking at direct-to-consumer testing.  I received my match on looking at adoptive parents with children who have DMD and their experiences.  I am so excited to get started, and I know a lot of the other first years are as well. 
I am hoping to make a more specific post about things we have learned such as exomic sequencing, course work, and other program happenings over winter break, so stay tuned! : )

Posted by Amy Gladstone, First Year Student


Hello from the Class of 2013!

     After about a month of being in the Genetic Counseling Program here at the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, we have learned a lot of lessons, both inside the program and out.  With roughly half of us moving to Ohio for the program, we have settled down and are adjusting to life in Cincinnati as well as life in the program.  We come from all over, with five of us from Ohio, two of us from Michigan, and North Carolina, California, Georgia, Washington, Virginia and Kenya are represented as well.  Coming from Michigan personally, I didn’t expect much of a change as Ohio is still the mid-west, and I thought I would not have much of an adjustment to make since Cincinnati is roughly the size of Detroit.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Cincinnati, although not technically the south in my definition, has the comforting southern mentality, southern accents, and everyone is so nice and friendly unlike in the Detroit area.  Maureen, a fellow first year and Michigander, commented too that not only was the climate definitely more southern, but that the weather was much more southern too.  “First, it’s significantly more warm and humid in Cincinnati than it is in Troy.  I remember coming down here for my interview in the winter and experiencing spring-like weather.  No complaints there!”  We are currently experiencing low 80’s to mid 70’s in temperature in October.  This is unheard of in Michigan, but a very welcome change, especially with impending Molecular Genetics and Human Genetics exams coming up.  We also noticed that Cincinnati is a mixture of different subcultures and neighborhoods."  I thought that the size of the city would be overwhelming, but I’ve found it to be quite manageable.  Cincinnati is divided into smaller communities, with each offering something different.  I live in Hyde Park, a safe and picturesque area with a quaint downtown,” stated Maureen.  I live in Westwood, on the other hand, which is the opposite side of Cincinnati, and a very different neighborhood as well.  There is no central down town, but there are strip malls, many grocery stores and convenient eateries, and it is a bit more urban than Hyde Park.  There are really different locations within Cincinnati to suit every lifestyle.  Bette, our program coordinator, really helped with this process, and could let us know where anything and everything was located that we may need, both inside the program and in Cincinnati in general.   Overall I would say that we have all been settling in nicely and made the quick adjustment to starting school again.  We bonded during the Team-building day with our second years, had a really nice mentor-mentee picnic, and had a really good experience with moving and meeting everyone in the program.  On the scholastic front, we had the Human Genetics Refresher Course to gear us up for the start of the program, along with orientation.  I would say that as first years, although we are getting into the thick of the quarter, we are really enjoying our time here, and can’t wait to see what the next page for us is here in Cincinnati.  Maureen summed it up by saying “Overall, I’ve loved my experience in Cincinnati so far.  I look forward to continuing my exploration of the city and discovering everything that makes it unique!” 

-Amy Gladstone, 1st year student


Class of 2013

We would like to congratulate the newest class of the University of Cincinnati Genetic Counseling Program! We are so excited for you to join us, Class of '13!

Check out student bios here: http://geneticcounseling4u.org/about/students.html

Now that the interview process is over, second years are finishing up their theses and first years are prepping for their intensive reasearch rotation, as well as summer rotations! Students will be placed in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus OH; Charlotte, NC; Las Vegas, NV; Atlanta, GA; and Nashville, TN! We will hopefully have some students blog while they are on their summer rotations!

More posts to come about Spring quarter, and the graduation of the second years!

Posted by Leslie Gress, First year student


Winter conference, Spring baseball

It has been a very busy time in the GCP! We have been putting lots of energy into our interview season! First years had a very busy winter quarter, and second years are wrapping up their thesis projects. It's hard to believe that in only 8 weeks, the year will be over!

In March, a few of the first years volunteered for a BRCA conference for those in the community that have a mutation and may have had breast cancer. It was an awesome day organized by fellow GCs at Children's and St. Elizabeth Hospital sponsored by Check Your Genes. There were several speakers that came to talk to attendees including surgeons, radiologists, survivors, and of course - genetic counselors. There were also breakout sessions where people could learn more about BRCA, discuss telling their families about their mutation, understand how this may change sexuality, etc.  It was a very long day, but it was SO interesting to be around our potential patients in Cancer Clinic all day and hear all the information they had to give. In thinking about all the doctors that were there, it was interesting to also hear about all the other members of the medical community that GCs need to work with to truly understand the impact of BRCA mutations on our patients.

Although it's been a busy few weeks, it hasn't been ALL work. The baseball season started and some of us girls headed to see the Cincinnati Reds on opening night to help donate to the Fetal Care Center at CCHMC.  It was a beautiful evening and there were fireworks after! Luckily the Reds won. It's so fun to be able to enjoy each other's company outside of school and to be able to keep discovering Cincinnati together. There were a total of 10 of us at the game - and I'm sure we'll be going to a few more before we all leave for our summer rotations!

Speaking of summer rotations, some of the first years have nailed down where they will be! We will be heading to Charlotte (NC), Las Vegas, Cleveland, Washington DC, Denver, Newfoundland (Canada), Atlanta, and three will be heading to Nashville! Almost everyone has the details smoothed out, and are rotating in prenatal and/or cancer rotations. We are all very excited for our summer sites!

The second years are also very excited as they are beginning to get jobs! One has a cancer job in Atlanta, one establishing genetic counseling in Illinois, one in Kentucky -- and several more are within the last stages of interviews! It is a very exciting time for the program & my classmates.

It is my effort to keep this more up-to-date this quarter prior to heading to summer rotations! We are very excited to welcome a new class here in a few weeks, and I am sure all of the details will be posted in short time. As a first year, it is hard to imagine that only a year ago, we were all interviewing. We've learned SO much since then - in classes, clinic, with our thesis. It is mind-boggling to think that this time next year, we will almost be graduates! We couldn't be more excited to enter the GC field :)

Posted by Leslie Gress, First Year Student


Volunteering & VCFS!

I know it has been awhile since something has been posted - winter quarter surely is a busy one for the GCP! While I take the time to write some blog posts about that, check out this awesome experience a first year, Laura, had at a VCFS community day!

A few weekends ago, we were able to take advantage of a fantastic opportunity to volunteer with the Velo Cardio Facial Syndrome (VCFS) support group for the afternoon. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center put together a support group for the parents and families of children with VCFS. While the parents were listening to lecturers, some of the GCP girls were able to play with their children.

Until a few weeks ago I had never heard of VCFS or worked with a child who had VCFS so this was a great opportunity for me to hang out and get to know some of our VCFS patient population. VCFS is a genetic condition that can affect the palate, heart, and face. Children with VCFS can have a cleft palate, heart defects, minor learning problems and delays, speech problems, hearing loss, behavioral problems or mood swings, and feeding problems. This syndrome is variable and every patient doesn’t have all of these features.

While we were off pretending like we were kids again with the patients and their siblings in the backrooms of the church, the parents were listening to presentations  on VCFS and the VCFS clinic given by our geneticists and genetic counselors. Dr. Hopkin presented ‘What’s in a Name?’, which described the reasoning behind the nomenclature for VCFS (velum for palate, cardia for the heart, and facies for the face). Dr. Saal talked about the role of the VCFS clinic at CCHMC and the hopes and future plans for the clinic and its staff.

There were six first year and one second year students who decided to spend their Saturday morning volunteering. When we arrived at Vineyards Church on the north side of Cincinnati, we set up the lecture room for the parents. We were able to provide the children and their families a delicious breakfast and then play time began. We set up four separate rooms for the children and young adults to hang out in. We had a teen room, an arts and crafts room, a movie room, and a play/toy room.  In the arts and crafts room we made Valentine’s Day cards - one of the little girls even made me one :)  The toy room was a blast! We had building blocks, mini golf sets, bowling sets, and dolls for the kids to play with. The biggest hit of the afternoon was the balloons. We had one big game of ‘don’t let the balloon hit the ground’ which was a huge success. We even had our doctors involved - Dr. Hopkin rocks at making paper airplanes. After play time (and learning time for the adults), we all got back together to mingle and enjoy lunch.

I must say the VCFS volunteering opportunity was one of the highlights of my quarter so far! The kids were awesome and they gave me a chance to let loose and refine by coloring/Play –doh skills. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to work with this patient population!

-- Laura Fairbrother, First year Student


A Voice: "There's an App for that!"

As I sit here in our program's area at Children's, I've got white earbuds jammed in my ears bringing me wonderful music from my iPod. Some of us might have iPhones, Droids, or other smart devices which we use to text, checkour facebooks as if something majorly important needs our attention, tweet with twitter apps, or play games like Sudoku or Angry Birds. Yet, have we really thought of the potential of these devices?

Using google I found this picture of the one, the only, the iPad. Now, my thinking might be primitive, but I expected business people to use this for hands-on presentations, checking the stock market, sending emails. I expected my Grandma to use it to read a book through a Kindle App. In a little google search "uses of iPad," some of the top uses were for Mobile Gaming, eReading, Business, texting and tweeting, watching TV/videos, and using it as a GPS. However, I'm not sure the creators of this device ever expected it to give someone language.

Setting: I'm a first year student rotating in our clinic space. This clinic space is sometimes shared among services - so today there was a Cancer Genetics rotation and an Aerodigestive clinic. While I was only in one of them, everyone is very friendly and we share insights about patients (more like they share, and I, the student, listen). I had just stepped out of a room with a patient, and was called over to the other side of clinic by one of our Geneticists. She said "you've got to see this!" - and she was right.

In front of me was a six-year-old child in a wheelchair who had several health complications due to her condition. Up to a few months ago, her family and doctors thought she was basically non-communicative. She wouldn't respond in animated ways when her mother talked to her, she wouldn't ask for anything, she wouldn't move her arms. Then, she got her iPad.

I didn't pry into how exactly the idea of getting an iPad was brought up with the family, but the mother seemed very active in her child's care and after six years of low to no communication, I wouldn't doubt that she figured this out for her daughter in talking with other parents.

The six-year-old girl could now click on a drink application on the iPad homescreen, and tell her mom what she wanted to drink. She could play educational games and point to the correct shapes if you asked her. She knew who the Disney Princesses were now. Her mom said to me "last week, she read her first book all by herself." Her mom said they both had more freedom, and how special it was to be able to communicate with her daughter after all this time. To me, I was SO touched, I had to hold back the tears. Here I was (as well as most of the population) playing on iPads, thinking they're "cool," playing mindless games, checking my e-mail and then here was this child who was given language with an iPad. Just think of not being able to verbalize your needs, wants, desires. Not knowing popular culture. Not reading. Not Communicating. And then, with a new-age device - you can.  I can say confidently, it was an experience I will never forget. It most certainly put things into perspective, and showed me so many lessons on all I have to be thankful for, and just how sweet technology is becoming.

I don't think the inventors of the iPad ever intended for such a large impact on that child and family, and me in clinic that day. But I do think that everyone needs to take a step back and realize just what this technology can do for patients and families. Not only with genetic conditions, but with several lifelong conditions. There are tools for them, and sometimes it seems we just have to think outside of the box.

I wonder if there's an App for that.

Posted by Leslie Gress, First year


Happy New Year!

It's a busy start of 2011 for the GCP!

This quarter, first years are taking two different classes than last quarter and beginning to work hard on their Thesis Projects. So far, I think we're all enjoying Epidemiology and Embryology very much! Our professors are very fun to learn with, and make the long classes go fast :)

Other than that, I think first years are "Thesis-heavy" right now - we're figuring out our research questions, meeting with our advisors, and beginning to think about IRB submission. With all of us working on different topics and projects, I think it is very exciting to hear where everyone is at in the process and how they're liking their project so far. It's a longgg project so I won't be surprised if frustrations happen sooner than later!

We're ALL very busy in clinic. Right now, I'm rotating with the Hereditary Cancer Program. It's such an interesting rotation and I've seen a lot of cases that makes me excited about what's to come in research for genetics. For example, I saw a family and I thought for SURE they would have a genetic mutation that would pre-dispose them to cancer, raising their risk. Only to find out while taking the family history, they had tested negative for such a mutation. It made me want to figure out all I could for this family, and made me so excited about my field. With more research and understanding, we'll be able to provide answers for more famillies, and hopefully ensure better medical care. It may be dorky - but it surely is exciting!

This quarter is a busy one - but we've got more updates coming! Next on the list: a unique clinic experience :)

Until then!

Posted by Leslie Gress, First Year