I’m amazed at how much I have managed to absorb in the last four weeks. Apart from the mounting pile of tests, presentations, and case studies, it feels so good to have my synapses firing again! Especially when I get to ponder all things genetic counseling all – day – long.
Much of the focus of the coursework has been establishing a base knowledge of features, inheritance patterns, and population frequencies of common genetic conditions. Two that keep coming up again and again are Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). The idea is to apply this information to an individual or couple’s pedigree and calculate the likelihood that either of them, or their child might be affected with the condition in question.
As much as I love genetics, I knew nothing more than a vague, one-liner about many of these disorders and I really do not excel at math. If I could go back in time, I would tell my 7th grade self to pay more attentions to fraction/decimal conversions and know those common denominators!
This is why I was excited for the opportunity to view two separate films about three truly inspiring individuals living with genetic conditions. The first is The Power of Two– a documentary about two Japanese-American women (Ana and Isa) who are identical twins living with CF, which is quite rare in Asian populations. The film was premiering as part of DocuWeeks in NYC, so my classmates and I made an evening out of it and were even able to hear the director speak about the making of the film at the end.
The second film, Darius Goes West, was part of our orientation week. The film follows a teenager with DMD (Darius) and his friends on their quest from Georgia to California to be featured on MTV’s Pimp My Ride, all the while spreading the word about DMD and accessibility issues for wheelchair users. Darius has a playful personality (complete with rapping ability) and their group pulls plenty of teenage guy antics that makes this feel more like a reality TV than a documentary.
Being able to recall the factual components of these conditions is undoubtedly important, but for our profession, familiarity with the human factor holds equal weight. Both Darius and the twins are unbelievably upbeat and courageous; I felt so in awe of their outlook on life and everything they have accomplished. Prior to starting school, I had never met anyone with an (obvious) genetic condition, so I found both of these films as an inspiring introduction and education, breathing life into the conditions that make up my coursework.