Pharmacogenomics Rotation

In follow-up to our series on elective rotations, Krista Qualmann writes below about her experiences rotating at a Pharmacogenomics Company.  Though this was not an elective rotation, Krista was the first person to participate in this opportunity.  Also check out our previous elective rotation posts about the International Adoption Center, Starshine Hospice, and Bioethics.

One of the things that drew me to the University of Cincinnati’s Genetic Counseling Program was the wide variety of clinical rotation opportunities.  I think that it is important to gain experience both with different supervisors and in different settings in order to gain a full picture of the variety of roles that genetic counselors can participate in during their career.  This spring I had the opportunity to be the first genetic counseling student to rotate through a newly added pharmacogenomics and industry rotation at Assurex Health (http://assurexhealth.com). 

Assurex Health is a personalized medicine company that uses their “GeneSight” testing panels to combine an individual’s pharmacogenetic testing results with knowledge of drug metabolism pathways in order to help physicians determine which psychotropic, ADHD, or pain medications may work best for patients.  During my rotation, I participated in weekly Science Team meetings, which included company leaders, employees, and other rotating students, such as PharmD candidates and undergraduate co-ops.  There, various team members shared their progress on individual research projects and received critique in a collaborative working environment.  I was assigned my own research project in which I investigated the merit of adding an additional gene to one of the company’s panels.  I presented the results of my research at the Science Team meeting at the conclusion of my rotation.

In addition to my research, I practiced customer service responsibilities by participating in physician and patient consults via telephone.  I also worked with the marketing team to help create physician and patient-friendly education material to be added to Assurex’s website.  As an added bonus, I received my own GeneSight test results and was able to experience first-hand what it is like to learn those results and incorporate them into my personal identity.

During this rotation, I was able to explore many of the non-traditional roles that genetic counselors are taking on in laboratory and industry positions.  I think that this is an important opportunity for students to have, especially as the demand for genetic counselors in industry increases.  Genetic counselors are trained in a unique skill set that can be applied to many different situations.  As our field expands, we also need to be able to apply those skills to new environments.  I had a wonderful experience working with everyone at Assurex Health and highly recommend the rotation to future students.

--Krista Qualmann