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M&G FAQ ((Jade M.))

Vintage image of boy raising hand in classroom

So anyway…we checked our m&g email account recently *insert embarrassment emoji*…

Yowzers, apparently we have not responded to email messages in over a year.  And some of you posed some really good, important questions.  We sincerely apologize for our oversight.  Your questions did not deserve the cyber snub treatment.

After reviewing about 50 emails, some common themes emerged.  This is great because it means we can draw some statistically significant FAQs (thesis much?) that can be addressed on this larger platform.  

So thank you for your questions!  Without further ado:

How did you choose which programs to apply to?

To answer this, you have to (1) consider and (2) pick your priorities.  Go ahead: seriously brainstorm all the factors that appertain to graduate shool-ing.  Here are some ideas to get you started: location, number of students accepted, where the rotations occur, cost of program, when you start clinical rotations, whether classes intermix with medical students, option to pursue a concurrent public health degree, whether there are housing options for rotations, public/private university, etc., etc., etc.  

After you brainstorm, step 2 is to prioritize which ones are most meaningful to you. Of course, there is no right answer, and this necessitates some soul-searching on your part.  

A couple pointers….

Before you begin, I would recommend spending time perusing all the program websites and getting a feel for each.  

Here they are (US and Canada): http://gceducation.org/pages/accredited-programs.aspx

International: http://tagc.med.sc.edu/education.asp

Do not be afraid to write down notes.  Or type up notes.  Or create crazy excel sheets like a super weirdo (you’ll eventually find out that you’re not that weird and everyone does it).

Another trick is to just start applying.  The application process is distinct for each school and therefore grueling.  You will probably subconsciously start with your favorites.  After the process wears you down, and you’re wondering whether you should apply to that last school, any motivation mustered will reflect your true interest in the program.

What happens if I do not get in the first time?

If you do not get in the first time, eat an entire carton of fro-yo, cry/journal/jog, then pick yourself up, and apply again.  Because I promise you that this scenario is not that uncommon.  I don’t have any numbers, but anecdotally, it is just not that uncommon to to not get in the first time.  Ouch, double-negative.  Plain English:  Many people do not get into a program on the first round.

The important thing here is to ensure that the “not getting in” does not drastically harm your sense of self-worth.  You are a smart, good person and this does not mean you shouldn’t be a genetic counselor!  Maybe you had an “off” day of interviewing.  Maybe you had an awful semester and did poorly in a class.  Maybe you need some more experience.  This is all OK.  Roll with the punches.  Take a year off.  You’ll be fine.

More practical advice: Sometimes lack of acceptance is a matter of gaining more solid volunteer/shadow/work experience.  Check out our resources page, but some good ideas include shadowing a GC (find one here: http://nsgc.org/p/cm/ld/fid=164), working for a crisis center, volunteering for a center for individuals with disabilities, working for a laboratory (if qualified), finding a position as a genetic counselor assistant, taking a relevant research positions, and so on.

Chin up and continue to chase your dream.  I promise that a one-year delay is irrelevant in the grand scheme.

I’m confused about the job description of a Genetic Counselor vs. Geneticist…

Ah. yes. OK.

Genetic Counselor and Geneticist are distinct professions.  Different but definitely collaborative.  Let’s begin with training.  GCs hold 2-year masters degrees.  Geneticists are MDs and therefore attend 4 years of medical school, followed by residency and then a fellowship in genetics (often more than one fellowship).  If we use pediatrics as an example, both specialties often work directly with patients to make a diagnosis.  While not always true, GCs tend to do more of the counseling and psychosocial component of the diagnostic process.  MDs are qualified to perform physical exams, treat, and order tests (GCs that are licensed can also order tests).  Sometimes GCs work very closely with Geneticists (like in pediatrics), other times they work separately.  Each can hold non-traditional (non-clinical) roles if that is what is desired.  

As I type this out, I realize it is difficult to paint a really good picture of our different and overlapping roles due to contingency on specialty/facility/location.  So I would recommend two things: (1) Go ‘head and Google your heart out for more specifics (you know, like internet homework) and (2) Spend time shadowing both geneticists and genetic counselors (you know, like real life homework).  That will give you the best sense for each!

How easy is it to spread out your time over different fields of genetic counseling? AKA – are you pigeon-holed or what?

This is a wonderful question.  Because I’m proud to say that No, you’re certainly not pigeon-holed.  It is very possible to make a career out of multiple subspecialties.  Not everyone does this, but there are many GCs who fill their career with focuses in prenatal, pediatrics, cancer, cardiology, laboratory, public health, newborn screening, inborn errors of metabolism, sales/marketing, research, etc. etc. etc.  Many people will hold a job that combines two or three specialties at once.  Others prefer to spend an entire career in one niche area.  

Once you achieve board certification, you’re technically qualified to do it all.  Naturally, work experience plays into this. If you work 30 years as a prenatal counselor and want to make the switch to cancer, you can.  However, you’ll likely have to do major catch-up learning and potentially compete against applicants who have more experience in the cancer realm.  Alternatively, if you work 30 years as a prenatal counselor and then want to take a position for a laboratory that performs research on prenatal testing technology…well, congratulations, you’re hired!

I’m in middle school/high school.  I totally have my act together and know without a doubt that I want to be a genetic counselor.  What’s next?

Ummmmm.  Why you gotta make the rest of us look like our 16-year-old selves were just infants in disarray? But, hey, you go Glen Coco.

Honestly though, it is stellar that you have an ideal career path before you even enter college, and you’re certainly a step ahead of the game. I encourage you to both (1) chase this goal and (2) give yourself some wiggle room if you find that perhaps a different career suits you better – you’re so far ahead that it’s even OK if you change your mind. I grant you that magical permission.

At this point, one thing you may want to consider is your major in college/university.  Here’s the fun part:  You can major in anything under the sun, as long as you fulfill prerequisites for graduate school.  

Prerequisite classes = The bare minimum classes that you must take before eligible to apply for GC graduate school.

Each program may have just ever-so-slightly different prerequisites, but for the most part, they are aligned.  You will have to visit each program’s website to know for certain what you need and whether you’re eligible.  But, basically, if you enroll in the following classes, that will get you where you need to go:

  • One year of general biology
  • One year of general chemistry
  • One semester of biochemistry
  • One semester of genetics
  • One semester of statistics

Additional courses may include: Developmental Biology, Counseling Psychology, Developmental Psychology … but don’t beat yourself up if your school does not offer these.

Now, it is certainly easier to fulfill these courses if you are a science major.  I have met many GCs who majored in Biology or Genetics or Psychology….or perhaps double-majored.  Alternatively, you could do a Public Health, Anthropology, or Kinesiology major, or any subspecialities of Psychology that your school offers.  These are just ideas.  All are good.  You can major in Underwater Basket Weaving as long as you fill your prerequisites….and uh, are able to defend your choice of major when asked during interviews.

Here are links to graduate programs: http://gceducation.org/Pages/Accredited-Programs.aspx

I think I sound like a broken record with this suggestion, but you’ll also want to shadow a genetic counselor(s).  Some potential students get anxious about the AMOUNT/TYPE of shadowing that is advisable! This is not one-size-fits-all.  If you live in a city that has no opportunities to shadow a genetic counselor, well, hey, it is a little more difficult for you and also out of your hands.  You may have to think outside the box a little: try contacting genetic counselors and asking to interview them by phone.  In general, strive to obtain at least a few weeks of shadowing, spread across different facilities and subspecialties.  Find opportunities to shadow for a few days over school breaks.

Other resources that you may find helpful:

NSGC for prospective students:

http://nsgc.org/p/cm/ld/fid=43

Day in the Life:

http://allhealthcare.monster.com/training/articles/236-career-profile-genetic-counselor

Robin Bennett MS Interview:

https://www.nwabr.org/sites/default/files/pagefiles/IntroGeneticCounselor.pdf

Vignettes from US News & World Report:

http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/2007/12/19/genetic-counselor-a-day-in-the-life

My grades right now are not so hot (mostly Bs), will that hinder my acceptance into a program?

Probably not!  It is apparent that so many of you are your own worst frenemies.  You’re stressing me out, so I can only imagine how stressed you all must feel!

Remember, you are a whole human, composed of more than just your grades.  You are not a report card.  You are a person with experiences, extracurricular activities, time spent volunteering or coaching or mentoring; you are a person with a compassionate personality and a passion for the field; you are a person that has something to offer that someone else may not; and you also have some grades sprinkled on top.  You are a bolstered applicant.  Again, you are more than just your grades.

What’s that – You want a more concrete answer?  This is what I think:  A grades are super fantastic! A/Bs are really great too!  If you get a C, can you justify why that is the case?  Did you take 20 credits that semester?  Did you have something going on in your personal life that dampened you academically? If the grade is really nagging you, do you have the option to retake the course?

It is worth mentioning: One of the most compelling questions I was asked during a graduate school interview was “How do you practice self-care when you’re stressed/anxious/worn down?”

Let me ask you: How do you practice self-care?

Think hard about this.  Journal your answer, or write a little memo on your phone.  Return to your answer when you’re in need.  Ensure you’re taking care of yourself.  If you’re stressed now, can you handle the continued and concentrated burden of graduate school? I am positive that you can, but you need a plan, man!

Have a plan for self-preservation so that you can enjoy the journey.

I am a last-semester senior OR I have already graduated…and I just decided I want to be a genetic counselor!  Help! Am I too unconventional to apply to GC programs? Does it look bad if I go back now and take prerequisite courses?

I love this question!  Congratulations on deciding you want to be a genetic counselor!  

NO, you are not unconventional.  In fact, you may even be the norm.  And No, you will not look bad – you will look like a person that puts in the extra work/time/money to enter a career you care about.

This “non-traditional” path includes myself.  I graduated from college  and then spent a year taking chemistry, biochemistry, and genetics at a local college.  I totally moved back in with my parents and worked part-time at Target as a coupon-passer-outter while having awkward run-ins with former high school classmates (ahh, the glamor of working towards a goal, am I right?).  I felt lonely and behind the eight ball as I watched friends enter professional careers or graduate programs.  But here I am, years later, working as a GC and smiling fondly to myself when I shop in Target.

As I said above, I sincerely promise that a one or two year delay in “getting where you want to go” is completely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

Use the resources above and on our resource page to make yourself the most bomb.com applicant you can be, and go get ‘em!  BOOM SHAKALAKA

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NSGC Conference ((By Hannah))

Now that I have finally unpacked, caught up on sleep and have school almost under control, I thought I would share some of my favorite parts of this year’s NSGC conference that was in Pittsburgh last month. For those of you new to the genetic counseling word, NSGC is the National Society of Genetic Counselors. This group promotes the professional interest of genetic counselors and provides a network for professional communications. Each year they hold a conference to educate genetic counselors on new technology and research being done in the field.

It was my first time attending and no amount of advice can prepare you for 1,500 genetic counselors all in one place for four days talking about genetics. My memory of the conference may also be slightly clouded by the pet show going on in the conference center at the same time, but I will attempt to recap what stuck out to me the most at the conference. (Confession: My classmates and I may have spent most of our breaks watching dog jumping competitions.) While I would love nothing more than to fill this page with the pictures and videos I took of dogs, I will focus on two videos that were shown at the conference that I really enjoyed. Anyone interested in genetic counseling should take a look!

The first video is Twitch, a documentary about an 18 year old that undergoes genetic testing for Huntington’s disease.  The film follows Kristin Powers and her decision to get testing for a severe neurodegenerative disorder that took her mother’s life. It is an extremely emotional documentary following a young woman and her family. Kristin was at the conference for a question and answer session following the viewing. It was tremendously helpful as a student and soon to be (!) genetic counselor to hear about what goes in to someone making a decision about genetic testing. We offer testing so often that I think it is easy to forget about how life changing a test result can be.

Check out the trailer!  

Twitch Documentary

 

The second video that I want to highlight is a video created by NSGC to help educate patients and providers. The video walks through what a genetic counselor does, when someone should see a genetic counselor and what to expect during your appointment. It is a great video for any prospective students out there that are looking to learn more about what it means to be a genetic counselor!

Check it out on YouTube!  

 

If you didn’t get your fill of genetics today from those two videos, I have one more of my favorites from the conference…a podcast! Check out RadioLabs podcast, Antibodies part 1, which features Carl Zimmer. He gave a talk at the conference about CRISPR. Rather than me attempt to explain this amazing (and complicated) technology, take a listen to the podcast. Enjoy!

Give the Podcast a listen!     RadioLab: Antibodies Part 1

2 Years Out ((By Jade C.))

Jade C. here.  Checking-in after checking-out after graduation.  Olivia and I began this blog with the intention of being student-focused.  This became problematic after we were no longer students – Have we become the Van Wilders of a graduate student blog? For shame.

Jade and Olivia

Luckily, there is value-added in providing perspective After Graduation.

So what happened After Graduation? – I have been employed by a pediatric specialty clinic in Florida for the past 2 years.  Here are some thoughts…

Boards. – I opted to take boards 1 year after graduation.  Naturally, there are pros and cons to this.  The pros include indulging in a study-mental-vacation after (seemingly) a lifetime in school.  Further, you have time to hone and ingrain some textbook skills in the real world.  But, with regard to cons, the struggle is real.  Learning proficiency at a new job and studying after work is not fun.  It’s awful.  It’s downright awful.  I thought.  Plus, you really drag out the pain of getting to the end of the road (if the end of the road has a sign that reads MS CGC).  Thus, my advice – bite the bullet and take boards sooner rather than later, while the student mentality is still hot.

Difficulties. – I encountered a number of unanticipated difficulties right out of the gates.  For one, I wanted to physically fight the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) every. single. day.  We were enemies.  Why wouldn’t it route my messages?  Where did my documentation go?  Why do I have so many open telephone encounters? At this point, I am more collaborative with the EMR, though I use it as my grandparents use the internet (very cautiously and at surface-level).  And, a second difficulty – insurance authorization.  Specifically, insurance authorization in the state of Florida without a state laboratory.  It’s been a tough path to hoe – telling patients that a test exists, and we would recommend it, but there is no way to pay for it. So……

Excellencies. – Well, let’s be honest – earning a paycheck and weekends off is nice.  But, on a higher level,  it has been rewarding to see myself grow.  I can mentally compare earlier counseling skills with later counseling skills, and understand the growth.  I also start to recognize patterns in medicine: differential diagnoses, recommended tests, and the right questions to ask have become more apparent.  Ordering the right tests has become easier (bar insurance authorizations).  And, providing care over time has been powerfully rewarding (the babies are now walking and talking!).

Good luck with interviews! ((By Hannah))

At this time last year, I was an eager candidate checking my email daily for any new interview invitations and updates on my visits. I was organizing my trips while simultaneously attempting to keep up with my school work and find willing individuals to substitute the classes I was teaching. It was stressful and terrifying and wonderful all at the same time.

When I began my program, my expectation for these two years was simply to get a degree in genetic counseling. Now being a quarter of the way to my goal, I realize that being a part of this program is so much more than just grabbing a degree and moving on. We are immersed in the world of genetics and pushed every day to try something new. In just one semester I have observed and participated in a wide range of sessions across multiple clinics. I have learned more in the classroom about genetic disorders and counseling that I knew possible. I have attended conferences and lectures by some of the leading individuals in the field of genetics. I have gotten to know a new city and I have met some wonderful people along the way.

With the realization that interview time is a few weeks away, I am especially excited for the next wave of students to join our program. I encourage all of the current applicants that are planning their interview visits to take advantage of the current students as a resource. Reach out to us with your questions and help us to get to know you. We are happy to do whatever we can to take some of the stress and anxiety off of your big day just as the previous students did for us.

I wish you all good luck during this exciting time!!

Celebrities!!! ((by Austin))

Throughout the last year and a half, whilst attempting to traverse the sometimes rocky terrain of learning about a wide variety of genetic conditions, my classmates and I have found a way to help remember some of the numerous genetic conditions that we need to know. We, like many other people across the country, have a morbid fascination with celebrities. As our time in classes has gone on, people now regularly bring up any celebrity ties to genetic conditions that come up in our discussions.

I thought I’d share some of the ones that I’ve come across, both in class as well as in my internet searches that I have conducted in an effort to delay schoolwork (hey, we all do it right?). Some of these are well-documented, and some are simply rumored. I will definitely do my best to identify which are which in an attempt to not ruffle any celebrity feathers (as I’m sure Maps and Genes has a substantial Hollywood following). I’ll also post links to articles where I found the information, in case you’re interested in reading more about it.

For reals:

Colin Farrell has a son with Angelman’s syndrome, which is an imprinting disorder that causes seizures, intellectual deficits and frequent laughter or smiling (gracefully dubbed ‘happy puppet syndrome’ by the medical community). He talks a little about his experience in this article:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2233450/Colin-Farrell-opens-year-old-son-James-disabilities.html

Mayim Bialik did got her PhD in Neuroscience and specialized in obsessive-compulsive disorder in adolescents with Prader-Willi syndrome, another imprinting disorder which causes intellectual delay, a ravenous appetite and morbid obesity. She talks briefly about it on her web site:

http://www.mayimbialik.net/bio.html

Gillian Anderson (of X-files fame and more recently seen on TV’s Hannibal) had a brother with Neurofibromatosis Type 1 who passed away at 30 from a brain tumor. One of the main features of NF1 are neurofibromas (tumors) all over the body, which sadly in some cases can be lethal. She discusses this and her work with NF1 charities on her web site:

http://www.gilliananderson.ws/charities/nf.shtml

Missy Elliot, rapper extraordinaire, was diagnosed in 2008 with Grave’s disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that causes over activity of the thyroid. Some common symptoms of Grave’s disease are anxiety, irritability, goiter (enlarged thyroid gland), and bulging eyes. She talks a little about her experience in this interview:

http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20505206,00.html

John F Kennedy, our 35th president, was diagnosed with Addison’s disease following his election and taking office. Some symptoms of Addison’s disease include fatigue, dizziness, weight loss and changes in mood and personality. It doesn’t take a political analyst to figure out why his administration wanted to keep this under wraps. An article in the LA Times talks a little more about this:

http://articles.latimes.com/2009/sep/05/science/sci-jfk-addisons5

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple (and apparent Ashton Kutcher look-alike), had carcinoid tumors, the type of cancer that ultimately lead to his death. Carcinoid tumors are neuroendocrine tumors that can be benign, or can metastasize. Because they are neuroendocrine tumors, they can also secrete hormones, such as serotonin, which can cause other problems throughout the body. Here’s an article that talks more about carcinoid tumors, and references Jobs:

http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/26/3518951/carcinoid-the-tumor-that-killed.html

Atticus Shaffer (Brick from the TV show The Middle) was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta Type IV, which causes brittle bones. Individuals with OI have bones which are prone to fracture, and often leads to short stature, as well as dental issues. Type IV is a more moderate type, but is variable from person to person. Shaffer talks about life with OI Type IV in this article:

http://www.parade.com/99009/erinhill/atticus-shaffer-the-middle/

Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones fame was born with achondroplasia, which is a form of short-limb dwarfism. Achondroplasia is one of the more common genetic causes of dwarfism, and occurs more frequently in cases where the dad is older. The technical term for this is advanced paternal age (flattering, right?), and there isn’t a widely agreed-upon age where this kicks in. This page has some quotes from Dinklage talking about his experience growing up with achondroplasia:

http://www.biography.com/people/peter-dinklage-20787107

Verne Troyer (Mini Me from Austin Powers) was born with Cartilage-Hair Hypoplasia Dwarfism (probably). I’m putting this one under ‘for reals’ because Troyer clearly has some type of short stature, and most of the articles I’ve come by listed it as CHHD, although none of them involve interviews with him or a conclusive diagnosis. This article is the *most* reliable one I found:

http://www.debate.org/reference/verne-troyer

Venus Williams, American tennis superstar, was diagnosed in 2011 with Sjogren’s disease, an immune-system disorder that causes dry eyes, dry mouth and pain, swelling and stiffness of the joints. Williams talks in this article about how she manages the symptoms, but the illness did eventually lead to her retirement from professional tennis:

http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/blogs/venus-williams-opens-up-on-her-battle-with-sjogrens-syndrome

Bernie Mac, who was a comedian and had his own TV show, had a condition called Sarcoidosis, which is an immune condition that causes inflammation in various tissues of the body and can predispose to certain types of cancers. Mac struggled with this condition for years and it contributed to his death in 2008. He started a Sarcoidosis foundation with a lot of information here:

http://berniemacfoundation.org

Probs for reals, but thus far just speculation:

Tom Cruise was rumored to have been born with holoprosencephaly, a condition that can cause the brain to be unable to divide correctly into two lobes. Speculation began with photos that appeared to show a younger Cruise with a centrally-spaced front incisor, which is a hallmark feature of holoprosencephaly. Some have hypothesized that this could be an explanation for his rumored fertility problems, as well as his sometimes erratic behavior (see: Oprah interview). Here’s the blog post that brought this to my attention; judge for yourself:

https://whyweprotest.net/community/threads/tom-cruises-teeth-does-tc-have-holoprosencephaly.58432/

Abraham Lincoln has long been rumored to have a genetic condition, largely because of his abnormally tall stature. The most prevailing theory is that Lincoln had Marfan’s syndrome, a genetic condition that causes tall stature, long spider-like fingers, and can predispose to vision or heart problems. Here’s an article that explores the evidence:

http://www.nature.com/news/2007/071130/full/news.2007.226.html

Jamie Lee Curtis has long been rumored (and again never been confirmed to have) some sort of gonadal disorder. The most common thing I’ve seen thrown around on articles I’ve looked at is ‘hemaphrodite’, which is not only an outdated term, but not very accurate. The prevailing theory among celebrity conspiracy theorists is that the actress has Androgen Insensitivity syndrome. Individuals with AIS are chromosomally male (XY), but are phenotypically female. Women with AIS would be infertile (seemingly the majority of the ‘evidence’ that Curtis has this – her two children are adopted), and would not menstruate. The Curtis camp has done a pretty good job at keeping a lid on this honey pot, but here’s an article from, appropriately, urbanlegends.com, that addresses this:

http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/jamieleecurtis/a/jamieleecurtis.htm

Ceelo Green allegedly was born with hypochondroplasia, which is a less severe form of achondroplasia (see: Peter Dinklage). Although not confirmed, his height and the proportion of his limbs along with his facial features suggest this less common type of dwarfism. Again, not a super reliable source, but they make a good case:

http://twelvethingsyoudontknowaboutme.blogspot.com/2012/05/celebrity-dysmorphology.html

That’s all for now – Happy Holidays everyone!

To the next two years…and BEYOND! ((by melissa))

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After almost completing the first week of my official Genetic Counseling education, I can’t stop myself from thinking about all the accomplishments to be had in the next two years of life.   This may be nerd status, but, regardless of all the readings, presentations, exams, quizzes, (insert more school-related “to-do” items), the overwhelming feelings I am experiencing are from pure excitement.  (If everything goes according to plan) I will become a Genetic Counselor in two years.  My pursuit of the profession is HOT.

Which also brings me to the question of…”why am I in pursuit of this profession?”  We recently had a class discussion of, likely, the most difficult question we have been asked…”What is a Genetic Counselor?” (or any other version of the sort.)  Most of us want to respond with…”well, do you have a few minutes?”  To us, a brief description does not serve enough justice for something we are all striving to become.

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Since Genetic Counseling is a multi-faceted profession, I believe there are different aspects that attracted each of us.  Personally, I am attracted to the magical blend of psychosocial support and transfer of medical knowledge, or more essentially communicating and delivering important information without neglecting that the receiving end of this information is a human and has a perception of feelings.  With this, it is difficult to refer to the role of the counselor in terms of one stoic job.  Each individual is unique and quite literally the only version of themselves (as evidenced at the DNA level!) and their feelings and reactions are far from being predicted.  In counseling sessions of two seemingly identical cases, the counselor role can range from support system to fact deliverer.

It is this vast role of a Genetic Counselor that adds to the difficulty of producing a sufficient answer to what we are.  I advise that if you were to Google this question, please delve deeper than just the surface display of responses given (I’m sorry, “web defintion”, but we are much more than “guidance for prospective parents on the likelihood of genetic disorders in their future children” – we tackle pediatrics and adult specialties as well!)   Although I’m partial to NSGC, or National Society of Genetic Counselors, their website provides an excellent description of the profession and beyond here.  Take time and check out the rest of the website, as well, because there are more great things to observe (like press releases under the “Media” tab – nerd status again!)

Are you in pursuit of a Genetic Counseling degree or considering the profession?  What is it that has caught your interest?  We love hearing about other individuals’ passions, no matter what they are (even if they aren’t centered around Genetic Counseling!)

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Jade + Olivia In Real Life! Plus, NSGC AEC Update

OK, so here’s our secret: Olivia and I had only actually met once in real life.  That time was during graduate school interviews, back in 2011.  But once was apparently enough, and we decided to become friends, keep in touch via phone and Skype, and start this blog.  (Is that weird??).  But (if that is, in fact, weird) as of last week’s NSGC AEC (Annual Education Conference) in Boston, we have officially met twice… and so we’re less ashamed to call ourselves long-distance-internet friends.  Now we’re just normal friends, and we have pictures to prove it.

In regard to the conference, we were both thrilled to not only see each other, but meet other students and professionals in the genetic counseling/medical genetics community.  And being in Boston wasn’t too bad, either!  The DNA Exchange put together a summary of some of the major emanating themes from the conference, including how we’re keeping pace with new technologies and our abilities to scale our competencies in niche areas.

In particular, I attended a lecture on pharmacogenomics (which Google still flags as a misspelled word because it’s so fancy).  The talk highlighted our initial misgivings about genetic counselors’ potential role in the field, but demonstrated how evolving medicine and pharmacology is providing greater than expected opportunities for our skills.  This, of course, melds with the increased availability of exome/whole genome sequencing and personalized medicine.  Essentially, personalized medicine is about to get a little more personal.

I’ll let Olivia add some more input about the conference and our experiences.  And since we have yet to post a single photo of us on this blog, I will now bombard you with 100 all at once.

 

 

 

First Internship, Check! ((By Jade))

Hello, maps & genes! It’s been a while – sorry that you were watching tumbleweeds roll by in June.

Olivia and I will now officially call ourselves second-year graduate students! And then in another year we will call ourselves masters…and make everyone else call us masters too.

As for this summer, I have completed my first clinical rotation (or internship) at a hospital in Orlando. I rotated through all three major specialties: prenatal, pediatrics, and cancer. The most outstanding part of the whole experience was diving in and learning sans textbook and library. Although, there were definitely a few times where I wanted to run out of the room and look something up in a textbook really quickly. I’m also grateful for a fun group of supervisors willing to take me on and spend the time to teach me about the field.

I have 4 more rotations to complete over the next year; however, each one will be focused on a single specialty area in order to really tailor skills.

Olivia has been counseling all the way over in New Zealand, but returns to the States by the end of August. And…in October, she and I will finally be in the same city for the NSGC annual conference in Boston!

In Lieu of Studying: Online Surfing and Body Surfing with Autism ((By Jade))

photo cred: Patagonia's "The Cleanest Line" blog, courtesy of Greg and Donna Edwards

      With two 10-page papers and two final exams on deck, it was only natural that I spent way too much time on Facebook this weekend with a couple of bouts of online shopping.  But, I also dug up some good genetics gems on the internet…and then decided to make a blog post about it in order to continue not studying.

1. After watching the documentary — Come Hell or High Water — Greg and Donna Edwards’ son, Kyan, who has autism, seemed enthused by the idea of surfing.  His parents decided to bring Kyan to the beach, an environment that previously created an uncomfortable ‘sensory overload.’  Inspired by the beauty of the waves in the documentary, this time Kyan “ran out into the water!”  His parents gushed:

Our son has discovered the ocean. He now feels at home in the water.

2. My boyfriend recently forwarded me the trailer for a WWII documentary entitled Menschen.  It’s currently raising funds for production.  A young man with Down syndrome stars as one of the main characters.

“MENSCHEN” is the German word for “human beings”. The film challenges prejudice behind stereotypes like “enemy”, “disabled”, or even “hero”.

3. And, finally, this deserves some good-hot, ethical debate (or maybe just a finger-wag):  Companies are now marketing genetic testing to measure sports aptitude.  I first heard about this at the ACMG conference a couple weeks ago, which was followed by ethical conversation and some uproar from the crowd.  The implications are numerous, but I wanted to poke around online for myself to see what exactly was being offered.  Atlas First seems to be the most searchable and most cited in the media.  I won’t give my full opinion on all this jazz (I’ve got finals to take care of!), but I will re-write one of the comments from an audience member at the ACMG conference:

I’m a terrible basketball player.  I’m awful.  But I love it.  And my life would not be nearly as fulfilling if I had taken a genetic test that predicted how awful I would be and was then told I better steer clear of basketball.

Final note: Congrats to all the new genetic counseling students who receive offers to programs on Monday 🙂

Spring Break Round-Up ((By Jade))

I meant to publish this before Spring Break…but instead this post sat around in “waiting” as I forgot to press the publish button.  And now, Spring Break has come and gone.  Here’s what I meant to say:

 

Half-Way Through Spring Round-Up:

  •  I have been more involved in community volunteering this semester as part of program requirements.  I also attended a “Family Home Visit” to listen to a family’s story about raising a son with severe autism.
  • We’re chugging along with thesis prep-work and aiming to submit our IRB proposals by the end of May.  I’m looking in the direction of investigating the stigma of cancer, along the lines of what the LiveSTRONG foundation is currently doing.
  • I am also steadily submitting my paperwork for my summer rotation in Orlando.  I’m grateful to be working in a skilled and modern facility, but am still working out the details of my sub-specialty for the 6 weeks.
  • I recently accepted a part-time job with a genetics marketing company! (Testing the waters as to whether you can be a graduate student in genetic counseling AND work…!)

On the horizon: welcoming more interviewees to the program, a family interview, final papers (dun dun DUN), presentations and routine class work, and tying up loose ends for our 3-week clinical semester in May… followed by our first rotation 🙂

…and now, on to SB2012!

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