I currently work as a clinical cancer genetic counselor at Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) in Annapolis, Maryland. While the best part of my job is counseling patients, I also enjoy working with a multi-disciplinary medical team and participating in tumor boards, lectures, and community outreach. The world of cancer genetic counseling is rapidly evolving and the MGC Training Program has given me the strategies and tools I need to research, assess, and manage complex clinical cases. While there are always new challenges, I feel prepared by the program and supported by my colleagues to provide the highest level of care and support. Additionally, as the only cancer genetic counselor at AAMC, I rely on the local and national network of counselors for advice and expertise and my classmates and instructors from the MGC Training Program have remained invaluable mentors. The knowledge I gained and the relationships I built in the program have given me the confidence to embark on this fulfilling, diverse, and mentally stimulating career and I am grateful to be a part of a clinically oriented and well-rounded program!
As an Instructor and Genetic Counselor at UT Health School of Dentistry in Houston and the UT Genetic Counseling Program, I am fortunate to have a job that is multi-faceted, cutting-edge and different every day. My clinical duties include evaluating patients and supervising genetic counseling students in various Craniofacial, Dental and Genetics Clinics across the medical center, where my focus is craniofacial anomalies including cleft lip/palate, craniosynostosis and tooth abnormalities. I also provide genetics lectures across many programs (genetic counseling students, medical students, dental students, dental hygiene students, dental residents and dental faculty continuing education courses), as increasing the amount of genetics taught to dental specialists and developing a new, innovative curriculum in the dental school is a major component of my job. Additionally, I develop research projects for students and collaborate with colleagues on educational and clinical research projects. The MGC Program was instrumental in preparing me for life as a genetic counselor and faculty member. Adaptability, quick thinking and professionalism are invaluable qualities for genetic counselors to have, and they were modeled for me by the best at University of Maryland, Baltimore. I had excellent teachers, a comprehensive curriculum, exposure to a wide range of genetic conditions, and interacted with large healthcare teams throughout my training. The program also gave me the opportunity to hone my supervision and presentation skills through classroom requirements, workshops and priceless advice from dedicated faculty. I could not have asked for a better experience.
I'm currently working as a pediatric genetic counselor at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in the department of Neurogenetics. Through this position, I work in two separate general neurogenetics clinics, the Fragile X clinic, and the Tuberous Sclerosis clinic. In these clinics, I work alongside neurologists and other neurodevelopmental specialists. In addition to these clinics, I also have one day devoted to genetic counseling "consults", which are internal or external referrals, mostly for pre-test of post-test counseling. Some ways the program has helped me: The University of Maryland Genetic Counseling program has played a very large role in helping me to become a successful genetic counselor. Oftentimes, in my position, I encounter disorders and mutations in genes that have just recently been discovered, or are novel. My training has given me the tools and resources I need to be able to effectively research these disorders and communicate that information to the families I work with. Furthermore, the psychosocial training that we receive definitely plays a role in my everyday work life. Working in neurology, many of the diagnoses we make are either fatal or neurodegenerative. Our coursework and activities that are devoted to psychosocial training have given me the skills I need to communicate bad news and be a great source of support for my families. With the tools I have from our program, I feel like I am actually able to make a difference in the lives of these families.
Jeni Herrera-Mullar graduated from the UMD Genetic Counseling Program in May 2013. Shortly thereafter, she started a clinical position at WellSpan Health in York, PA, counseling prenatal and preconception patients in a Maternal-Fetal Medicine clinic. In September 2014, she started a position as an Oncology Genetic Specialist with Ambry Genetics. In this role, she provides clinical support to clients across the Mid-Atlantic (MD, PA, DE, and southern NJ). She spends 50% of her times visiting with clients face-to-face, giving formal presentations in various settings, or attending conferences. The other 50% of the time, she works from home, taking calls discussing oncology genetic testing and complex family histories with various clients, including other genetic counselors, physicians, and nurses. She also spends part of this home time involved in research and helping develop marketing tools for the company. The position is challenging, because it requires staying on top of all the constant changes occurring in the cancer genetics world (in addition to finagling a busy, sometimes unpredictable schedule!), but the UMD GC Program was excellent preparation for this type of role. "I learned how to really maximize my time, since we were expected to master so much information in a short time during school. Additionally, I often give formal presentations in front of physicians and other clinicians as part of this role; the emphasis on refining presenting skills at the UMD program really prepared me for this. Learning abstract-writing and research skills was also immensely helpful, as this is another expectation of my position."
I currently work in an Adult Genetic Medicine Clinic that sees patients referred for a wide variety of indications; I see patients on my own or with medical geneticists who are experts in their field. In this fast-paced, dynamic setting, I utilize skills in case-preparation that I learned in graduate school on a daily basis. A lot of my success also stems from my emphasis on working to build a strong rapport with my patients; although building rapport with patients is a focus of genetic counseling and has many benefits, it is specifically emphasized by a concept I learned in graduate school: a strong therapeutic or working alliance is a better predictor to counseling success than almost any other aspect of counseling. But above all that I learned in graduate school, I would not be where I am today without the professional and personal relationships that I made while I was a student in the Master's Program in Genetic Counseling at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Elysia Pagano Davis
After earning a BS in cell biology and molecular genetics at the University of Maryland, College Park, I worked for two years as a research assistant in a neuroendocrine lab in Bethesda, Maryland. I had hoped to attend the University of Maryland, Baltimore for the genetic counseling graduate program because I was very impressed with the level of professionalism of the program director, staff, and current and former students I met prior to applying. This program seemed like a challenging, yet supportive program. As a student, I learned a lot about myself in addition to the course work. I learned how to be a true professional the world of genetic counseling, and how to use my innate skills to my advantage in the working world. Upon graduation, I accepted a prenatal genetic counseling position at Yale University, where I worked for two years. I recently accepted a faculty position at the University of North Carolina where I participate in clinical genetic counseling, teaching, and research. As a student, I became involved in the National Society of Genetic Counselors Student/New Member Special Interest Group, and am the current SIG Chair. I am also a member of the North Carolina Medical Genetics Association, and have volunteered with a number of organizations including Best Buddies, the 22q Foundation, and the Hope After Loss Foundation.
After two incredible years at the University of Maryland (2005-2007) and almost six years as a clinical prenatal counselor, today you can find me at Counsyl training our sales team on all things genetic! I first joined Counsyl in January 2013 and served as the main clinical resource for our West Region sales team. This meant working with our sales reps to educate referring providers (MDs and GCs alike) on technical aspects of our assays and the clinical benefits of genetic testing. In June 2014 I transitioned onto our learning and development team and now work nationwide, training our sales force and our Genetic Counselors. I can not imagine being where I am today without the education I received at the University of Maryland. Contracting, knowing how to tailor information to a specific audience, public speaking and presentation skills: these are all things I learned as a UMD student and continue to rely on daily. So many of the skills we acquire as counselors-in-training transfer into non-clinical roles that it's no wonder we MGCs excel in so many arenas!
I am originally from Rockville, MD, earned my bachelor's degree in cell biology and genetics from the University of Maryland, College Park, and currently work at the National Institutes of Health as part of the NIDDK studying endocrine tumor syndromes. I coordinate and develop our research projects, counsel patients, many of whom have MEN1 syndrome, and am in the process of transitioning our branch to genome-scale testing. In the MGC program, I learned the excitement of being in a constantly progressing field. I learned what it’s like to truly be challenged, for the first time in my life, and how to persevere. I made lifelong friends, colleagues, and mentors, and I learned the value of being surrounded by such brilliant, hard-working, caring people. Through my training and rotations, I learned how to communicate with patients of different backgrounds and how to tailor my counseling to an individual’s needs and understanding. I learned how important it is to have a variety of experiences in your training because you never know what will interest you, what opportunities will arise, or what lessons you will find yourself applying in your career and your life. And finally, I learned that you will never know as much as Dr. Greene, but learning how to think like her is what will set you apart.