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THE CLASS OF 2020 CHOSE PITT BECAUSE...

Why I chose Pitt: Pitt may be one of the oldest genetic counseling programs, but it was important to me that program leadership take pride in using student and alumni feedback to keep the program and curriculum up-to-date as the field evolves and changes. Being housed within the School of Public Health is also a great advantage for the program, allowing students to develop some additional skill sets, perspectives, and knowledge to use in our future careers. Probably the biggest draw of the Pitt program is the people – from faculty and staff to fellow students, everyone is so welcoming and supportive, and truly invested in your interests and success. On top of all of that, Pittsburgh itself is a great city! After visiting Pittsburgh during my interview, I definitely felt that it had great potential to be my home away from home.
Background: Genomic Medicine Assistant (Geisinger); “Buddy” Volunteer (BuddyUP Tennis); “Big Buddy” Volunteer (Camp Courage Bereavement Camp)
Work Position: NYMAC Genetic Counseling Graduate Student Worker
Alyson Evans (B.S. Biology, Minors in Psychology and Women’s Studies, King’s College, 2015)

AndrewWhy I chose Pitt: I originally came to Pittsburgh to complete my undergraduate studies, and now it’s been my home for almost seven years. Aside from the city’s vibrant culture, fantastic food, and myriad of events and locations to explore, it offers the opportunity of a deep and rewarding graduate education in the School of Public Health. I knew from the start of the application process that Pitt’s Genetic Counseling program was my top choice. Its location places it in the middle of a bustling academic and medical center, with access to a host of diverse clinical sites and resources. The sheer volume of cases that students experience in these clinics provides hefty exposure to the field’s broad patient base and the challenges that accompany them. Along the way, current faculty and students offer a supreme amount of support and guidance, making the journey a lot less daunting. By the end of the program, I’m confident that my classmates and I will be fully prepared to succeed in the exciting field of genetics and beyond.
Background: Research Assistant in the Dental Registry and DNA Repository (University of Pittsburgh); Crisis Text-line Volunteer (Online); Drumline section leader (University of Pittsburgh). Undergraduate Teaching Assistant - Intro to Biology II (University of PIttsburgh).
Work Position: Genetic Counseling Assistant at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital
Andrew Fazenbaker (B.S. Biological Sciences, Minors in Chemistry and Religious Studies, University of Pittsburgh, 2016)

AshleyWhy I chose Pitt: Being from Pittsburgh myself, I have quite the obsession with the city. With its hometown feel and endless activities you will never be bored, but most importantly Pittsburgh has an inspiring medical community. Pitt’s program takes full advantage of these resources and being located in the School of Public Health we as students are being fully prepared to enter this diverse field. If that was not enough, the strong sense of community and leadership within and outside the program is unbeatable. From the confidence building model of the curriculum to the time and investment spent by each and every mentor, Pitt is truly an all-encompassing program. I am excited to be spending my graduate career here and cannot wait for the next two years.
Background: Sexual Assault Advocate (Vera House, Syracuse NY), Biological Sciences Intern (Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh PA), Genetic Counseling Shadowing (Magee-Womens Hospital, Pittsburgh PA)
Work Position: Genetic Counselor Assistant UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
Ashley Lahr (B.S Biology, B.A. Psychology, Syracuse University, 2017)

CarolineWhy I chose Pitt: I chose Pitt because of the program structure, people, and legacy. I was excited about taking the majority of the courses the first year to provide us with the overall comprehension and necessary knowledge during our clinical rotations our second year. During the interviews, it was clear how dedicated the co-directors and staff truly were towards the current students’ education and training. Finally, with Pitt being the second oldest program, their reputation inspired trust and admiration. I knew a program with so much history and experience would have the tools to shape their students into successful, well rounded genetic counselors.
Background: Genetic Counseling Intern at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin; GC Shadowing at the University of Missouri Hospital; Crisis Hotline Counselor (Missouri Crisis Line); Therapeutic Riding Assistant (Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center); Children’s Behavioral Health Welfare Agency Volunteer (Great Circle)
Work Position: Clinical Research Assistant at TRiNDS (Therapeutic Research in Neuromuscular Disorders Solutions)
Caroline Bong (B.S. in Biological Sciences, Minors in Psychology and Spanish, Multicultural Certificate, University of Missouri, 2018)

ChristineWhy I chose Pitt: I chose Pitt for many reasons, but my decision to attend the University of Pittsburgh was made easy once I visited campus. I was blown away by the experience of the leadership, which made me realize that this program prepares students not only to be confident and well-rounded genetic counselors, but also to be leaders in the field for the rest of their careers. Being situated in the Graduate School of Public Health and the unique primary care rotation provide students with the tools to adapt to genetic counselors’ ever-changing roles in healthcare. I wanted the resources and opportunities of a large urban university, but the support and ability to build strong relationships more characteristic of a smaller community, which perfectly blend together at Pitt. On top of all the benefits of the program itself, Pittsburgh has an expansive medical community, and is an affordable, fun and diverse city. The view coming out of the Fort Pitt tunnel at night doesn’t hurt either.
Background: Clinical Research Coordinator in the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute); Active Listener on 7 Cups of Tea (online); General Biology and Neurobiology Laboratory Teaching Assistant (Providence College).
Work Position: Genetic Counseling Assistant at UPMC Shadyside GI Lab
Christine Drogan (B.A. Biology, Certificate in Neuroscience, Providence College, 2016)

ClaireWhy I chose Pitt: I chose Pitt for several reasons; public health is becoming more relevant as the field of genetic counseling expands, and the opportunity to take public health courses and do a dual degree or public health certificate really appealed to me. I love that coursework is done in the first year to give us a solid foundation before beginning clinical rotations over the summer. Students have access to two healthcare systems via public transportation, allowing easy access to diversity for clinical rotations. Leaders of the program are constantly thinking about how the program can be improved, a necessity in a constantly-changing field. The opportunity to live in Pittsburgh sealed the deal; it has all the benefits of a big city with a relatively low cost of living and good public transportation.
Background: AmeriCorps Member and Volunteer Coordinator (Impact America - Alabama); Genetic Counseling Assistant (University of Alabama at Birmingham); Birmingham Crisis Center Hotline Volunteer; Genetic Counseling Internship (Northwestern University); GC Shadow (Advocate Children’s Hospital, Chicago)
Work Position: Genetic Counseling Program Teaching Assistant
Claire McDonald (B.A. in Biology, Carleton College 2015)

LaurenWhy I chose Pitt: Pitt’s rich history in both medicine and public health drew me here, but it was the commitment and passion for moving forward that the faculty and students exhibited that ultimately made my decision. I appreciate the model the program implements to build students’ confidence and skills, followed by an immersive clinical experience that really imitates the lifestyle of a working professional. The school of Public Health gives students a well-rounded experience, and prepares students to take on more complex roles as the future of genetics changes.
Background: Student Research Assistant in Metabolomics (Iowa State University); Community Support Professional (Optimae Life Services); Principles of Genetics Lab Teaching Assistant (Iowa State University); Recruitment & Morale Captain, Community & Alumni Outreach Committees (Iowa State Dance Marathon - Children’s Miracle Network); Genetics and Psychology Tutor (Iowa State University); Domestic Violence Hotline Advocate (ACCESS); Executive Vice President (Sigma Kappa Sorority).
Work Position: Research Assistant at the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics
Lauren Winter (M.S. Biomedical Sciences, Iowa State University, 2017; B.S. Majors in Genetics & Psychology, Iowa State University, 2016)

PoojaWhy I chose Pitt: I was initially interested in Pitt’s program because it was one of the most well-established and one of the few that offered a focus on public health. Coming to Pittsburgh for my interview, I quickly realized that the program had even more to offer than its history and multidisciplinary perspective. There is a strong spirit of community running throughout the program, from the co-directors to the professors to the alumni. I felt assured that I could be in an environment in which I could succeed and in turn help others do so as well. In addition to all that, there is a wealth of learning opportunities within the school and city. I am excited to be in Pittsburgh and look forward to my next two years here!
Background: Crisis Text Line Counselor, Volunteer at Greater Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Genetics Clinic, Venice Family Clinic Healthcare Navigator and Clinic Assistant
Work Position: TBD
Pooja Solanki (B.S. Biology, Minor in Global Health, UCLA, 2017)

RosemarieWhy I chose Pitt: I chose Pitt because as part of the School of Public Health, its genetic counseling program provides a unique perspective. As genetic counselors it’s important for us to be sensitive to the human aspect of genetics and to consider how societal influences affect our healthcare. I also think the option to hold a work-study position is extremely helpful in cultivating important mentorship and networking opportunities in addition to clinical rotations. The support I have already received from the program leadership has made me feel incredibly welcome. I’m excited to be a part of the Pitt GC program and am looking forward to exploring the city of Pittsburgh!
Background: Manager of translational soft tissue sarcoma laboratory and student mentor (Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto), peer support volunteer (The Women’s Centre of Halton, Oakville), genetic counseling shadowing (Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto), biology teaching assistant (McMaster University, Hamilton).
Work Position: TBD
Rosemarie Venier (B.Sc. Honours Molecular Biology, McMaster University, Canada, 2010; M.Sc. Biology, McMaster University, Canada, 2012)


SarahWhy I chose Pitt: I applied to Pitt because of the program’s long standing reputation and its unique opportunities in public health. I also liked the way the program was structured, with most classes year one and mainly clinical rotations year two. Also, I liked that Pitt offers such a variety in clinical opportunities, including a new primary care rotation. When I came for my interview, Pitt was the school I could picture myself at. I loved the supportive environment between the students and the leadership. Everyone involved in the program was truly invested in the success of the students. I am confident I will graduate with the skills I need to be a successful genetic counselor and the ability to help solve evolving public health issues in genetics.
Background: Clinical Research Coordinator in Infectious Diseases (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center), Undergraduate Research Assistant at the Stress and Health in Pregnancy Research Program (Ohio State University), Sexual Assault Hospital Advocate (Women Helping Women, Cincinnati)
Work Position: Genetic Counseling Student Worker at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Sickle Cell Program
Sarah McGee (B.S. Molecular Genetics, Minor in Clinical Psychology, Ohio State University, 2017)

StephanieWhy I chose Pitt: Growing up in Pittsburgh, I had the opportunity to be immersed in the city’s rich health and medical culture from a young age. When I began looking into Genetic Counseling programs, I was immediately drawn to Pitt. With a background in public health and aspirations to apply my training to different populations, the program’s position in the Graduate School of Public Health and the opportunity for the dual degree was very important to me. The passion and sense of unity among the program’s leaders and students also ensure a strong environment for learning. I’m excited to be back home and a part of this amazing program!
Background: Development Associate & CrisisLine Worker at Mental Health America of Greenville County, Genetic Counseling Shadowing at Greenwood Genetic Center, Medical Clinical Rotations at Greenville Health System, STEM Mentor at Furman University
Work Position: TBD
Stephanie Betts (B.S. Health Sciences, Minor in Latin American Studies, Furman University, 2017)

VickieWhy I chose Pitt: I fell in love with the city when I visited in 2015, so when I started applying to GC programs I decided to apply to Pitt. The more I learned about the dual degree program, the more I knew I wanted to be at Pitt. I want to work with underserved populations to improve access to genomic medicine, so pairing the MPH Public Health Genetics program with the Genetic Counseling program seemed like a tailored fit! The other big draw has to be the people. The faculty are incredibly supportive- they want their students to do well. It may sound cliché, but I feel like Pitt has an atmosphere where faculty aren’t teaching students, they’re training colleagues.
Background: Services Coordinator (Linn County Developmental Disabilities Program), Direct Support Professional, “Buddy” with Night to Shine
Work Position: Precision Medicine Program Assistant (All of Us Research Program; Pitt+Me Discovery)
Vickie Bacon (B.S. Biology, California State University, Long Beach, 2012)

The Class of 2019 Chose Pitt Because...

Alyssa Azevedo Why I chose Pitt: I chose Pitt because it embodied so many qualities I desired in a genetic counseling program and what stood out most was its warm, supportive, and collaborative nature. Students have an opportunity to play a dynamic role in the program by offering insight and advice on how to improve curriculum for future students and the option to customize their education with different degree options. The program encourages you to obtain a student position that often provides thesis research and the opportunity to practice your genetic counseling skills in a work environment. I also loved the program structure. Students take the majority of their coursework in the first year and focus on clinical rotations in the second. This foundational knowledge will support me while I interact with a variety of patients and cases.
Background: Independent Living Skills Instructor for adults with developmental disabilities, Laboratory Technician and Lab Manager at a biology production lab, Undergraduate Researcher at U.C. Davis Center for Neuroscience, Biology TA at CSU Sacramento, Volunteer Crisis Counselor for Crisis Text Line, Pediatric Genetic Counseling Shadowing at U.C. Davis MIND Institute
Work Position: Research Assistant in the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics
Alyssa Azevedo (B.S. Biological Sciences, Concentration: Cell & Molecular, Minor in Chemistry, California State University, Sacramento, 2013)


Caitlin Russell Why I chose Pitt: I love that Pitt trains us to be genetic counselors within the context of public health. With the the field’s growing scope, this emphasis is particularly relevant and will enable us to take our careers in many different directions. The program’s dual degree, certificate, and PhD programs underline this strength. I also appreciate that the program not only allows students to hold jobs, but helps us find positions that are relevant to our thesis and future career. Lastly, Pittsburgh seems to be an incredibly friendly city: I love the idea of learning and working in this community!
Background: Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry TA (Swarthmore College); Undergraduate Thesis Research (Chemistry Department, Swarthmore College); Class Aid at Children and Adult Disability Services; Genetic Counseling Internship (Northwestern University); YMCA Reach and Rise Mentor; Research Associate (Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease); GC Shadow at Kaiser Permanente (San Francisco, CA); Billing Specialist and Government Billing Team Manager (Counsyl Inc)
Work Position: Genetic Counseling Student Worker at the Children's Sickle Cell Foundation
Caitlin Russell (B.A. Biochemistry, Swarthmore College 2011)


Charlotte Ernst Why I chose Pitt: Pitt began to stand out almost from the moment I began researching and comparing genetic counseling programs across the U.S. Throughout my exploration of the structure and curriculum, to applying and being accepted, I have seen a program that exudes a wonderful sense of camaraderie, respect, and warmth towards its students. After interviewing, I was confident that Pitt would provide a dynamic and supportive environment for my education. The program is organized with classes taking place the first year, and the bulk of your clinical work and rotations occurring in the second year. This gave me confidence, knowing I would have the relevant theoretical information first, then be able to switch my focus and start applying it in a clinical setting. I also decided to take advantage of the highly integral dual degree program Pitt offers (MS/MPH track). I know that having a degree in Public Health will be an asset to me as the field of Genetic Counseling continues to expand, encompassing more responsibility over the education of the public and the accessibility of information on issues of genetics.
Background: Cytogenetic Technologist (Quest Diagnostics Nichols Institute), Volunteer (Doorways for Women and Families), Shadowing (Genetics and IVF Institute and INOVA Translational Medicine Institute, Fairfax, VA), Orthodontic Assistant (NOVA Orthodontics), Recreational Aide/Teacher Assistant (Langley AFB Summer Children's Program), Mentor/Program Organizer (AmeriCorps, The Hampton Teen Center), Undergraduate Research Assistant (Biology Department, Christopher Newport University)
Work Position: Research Assistant in the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics
Charlotte Ernst Skinner, (B.S. Biology, Minor in Chemistry, Christopher Newport University, 2011)


Kelsey Bohnert Why I chose Pitt: When I started researching genetic counseling programs, Pitt stood out because of its reputation and legacy. The more I learned about the program’s structure, the more I loved the idea of tailoring your education to fit your career goals. What really sealed my choice, however, was the the people. Through the whole application and interview process, every person I spoke to was clearly invested in student success. From the administrative staff and interviewers to the directors, every conversation was productive and supportive. Even reading the blog post by current students showed how happy they were with their choice and how excited they were for their futures. You start off knowing that they are invested in you and your goals.
Background: Teach for America Educator, Crisis Hotline Volunteer, GC shadowing at University of Missouri Hospital (oncology, pediatrics, prenatal, metabolic disorders), Undergraduate Researcher (Thompson Center for Autism, University of Missouri Psychology Department), Student Research Assistant (U.S. Geological Survey), Peer Advisor at the University of Missouri, Volunteer Coordinator at Mustard Seed Fair Trade
Work Position: Virtual Data Entry Clerk with GeneDx Inherited Cancer Dept
Kelsey Bohnert (M.Res. in Translational Medicine, University of Manchester, 2017; B.A. in Biology and Psychology, Minor in Leadership and Public Service, University of Missouri, 2012)


Megan Hoenig Why I chose Pitt: The program at Pitt is the second oldest and has a strong emphasis on public health. This appealed to me because I wanted to attend a program with rich history and provides a broader perspective for the future of Genetic Counseling. Furthermore, the camaraderie between the students, having a wide variety of clinic settings (within a walk or a bus ride away), and a city with fantastic (free to students) public transportation system made Pitt desirable. Pitt’s program allows for you to have a fantastic foundation with a plethora of resources to succeed. I know that I will get a fantastic education here while adventuring the Steel City.
Background: Genetic Testing Coordinator at Baylor Genetics Laboratory, Genetic Counseling Shadowing at Baylor College of Medicine (prenatal, adult, and cancer) and Dallas Children’s Hospital (pediatric), Volunteer at Student Counseling HelpLine, Volunteer at Camp Summit, Undergraduate Researcher, University Honors Program Peer Mentor, Microbiology Laboratory TA
Work Position: Research Assistant for Lysosomal Storage Disorders Registry at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
Megan Hoenig (B.S. in Genetics and Biomedical Sciences, Minor in Psychology, Texas A&M University 2016)

 

Natasha Robin Berman Why I chose Pitt:The Pitt program being a part of the school of public health is more than just its physical location. It provides the opportunity to take courses with other students in genetics or public health while also still having genetic counseling specific courses. This really spoke to me as a way to create a well rounded education that would benefit me in a future professional role. The Pittsburgh program, as the second oldest, had a well established reputation and an extensive alumni network. I enjoyed how well the students and faculty and staff all got along, the supportive environment was incredibly important for me when determining my graduate program. It didn’t hurt that Pittsburgh is an all around amazing city.
Background: Developmental Biology TA (SUNY Purchase), Genetic Counseling Assistant Danbury Hospital, Kids in Crisis Safe Talk Facilitator, Organizer of Jewish Genetics workshop for Young Jewish Professionals CT, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Patient Advocate (Patient Finance)
Work Position: Genetic Counseling Program Teaching Assistant
Natasha Robin Berman (M.A. International Conflict, University of Kent 2010, B.A. International Relations, Minor in Dance, Knox College 2008)



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Why I chose Pitt: I chose Pitt because I really liked having most of the coursework in the first year, followed by clinical rotations in the second year. I felt that having the courses first would better prepare me for interacting with patients. Additionally, having clinicals at world-renowned hospitals in two different healthcare systems seemed to be a unique opportunity not many programs had to offer. From attending open houses while an undergrad at Pitt, I loved seeing the interactions between the Faculty, Staff, and Students, and how highly they spoke of the  program, especially of its established history and vast alumni network. And of course, Pittsburgh itself is a great city with awesome sports, museums, parks, and restaurants! 
Background: Helpline volunteer for Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, Pitt Genetic Counseling Club Business Manager, Microbiology Laboratory TA, GC Shadowing at MAgee Women's Hospital and AHN Wexford Health + Wellness Pavillion
Work Position: Genetic Counseling Student Worker at the Simmon’s Center for Interstitial Lung Disease
Rachel Sutton (B.S. Major in Biological Sciences, Minors in Chemistry and Social Work, University of Pittsburgh, 2017)


Rebecca Clark Why I chose Pitt: The confidence-building model of Pitt’s curriculum aligns with my personal learning style preference. I will be able to develop a solid foundation from coursework during my first year to get the most out of the hands-on clinical experience during second-year rotations in both of Pittsburgh’s major hospital systems. Also, I love everything about Pittsburgh. From the welcoming faculty and students to the accessibility of classes and hospitals by public transportation, I could not have imagined myself anywhere else!
Background: Therapeutic Support Staff (Family Behavioral Resources), Crisis Hotline Counselor (Centre Helps), Information Desk Volunteer (Allegheny Health Network), Lifeway Pregnancy Center Volunteer, Center for Neuroscience Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow (Univ. of Pittsburgh), Psychology Department Research Assistant (Penn State and Saint Vincent College), Biology and Psychology TA (Penn State), GC Shadowing at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, AHN Health + Wellness Pavilion, and Geisinger Medical Center
Work Position: Genetic Counselor Assistant at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
Rebecca Clark (B.S. Biology, Concentration: Genetics and Development and B.S. Psychology, Concentration: Life Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, 2016)


Samantha Afonso Why I chose Pitt: I chose Pitt because of the diverse educational opportunities (certificates/ dual degrees) that it provides. I felt that their program structure allows students to get the full-time professional experience that will best prepare us for life as genetic counsellors. The interview experience definitely didn’t hurt either! Pittsburgh is a beautiful city, having the opportunity to get experience in different hospital systems and with diverse populations was really essential to me choosing Pitt as my graduate school!
Background: The Lighthouse Program for Grieving Children (Oakville); Teaching Assistant at the University of Waterloo; Coordinator of the UW Women’s Centre; Volunteer Director of the UW MATES Program; Volunteer at Crime Victims’ Helpline (Ireland); Research Assistant in lab studying P. falciparum (Germany); GC Shadowing at Mt. Sinai (Toronto), Credit Valley (Mississauga), and Grand River (Kitchener) Hospitals.

Work Position: Genetic Counseling Assistant UPMC Shadyside GI Lab
Samantha Afonso (Bachelors of Knowledge Integration Joint Honours Biology, Minor in Philosophy, The University of Waterloo, 2017)


Sarah Brunker Why I chose Pitt: I chose the University of Pittsburgh because of the history and strength of the program. The program leadership is engaged and has a great “confidence building” model. I love the availability of the Dual Degree Program in MPH Genetics. There is a strong Human Genetics Department in the School of Public Health that is doing cutting-edge research. Additionally, the large number of clinical sites and the excellent reputation of the surrounding hospitals was a major factor in my evaluation of the program.
Background: Adjunct Instructor Chemistry Department (College of DuPage), Surgical Care Pavilion & Diagnostic Imaging/Mammography volunteer (Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital), Mental Health First Aid USA workshop participant (DuPage County National Alliance on Mental Illness), STEM-CON volunteer (College of DuPage), 2012 Bioanalytical Sensors Gordon Research Seminar Chair Elect (Salve Regina University), Laboratory Workshop on Techniques in Molecular Biology participant (The Pennsylvania State University), Writing Center consultant (Coe College), Shadowed genetic counselors. in oncology unit (Advocate Christ Medical Center)
Work Position: NYMAC Hotline Genetic Counseling Graduate Student Worker
Sarah Brunker (Ph.D. in Chemistry, The Pennsylvania State University, 2010; B.A. in Chemistry and Secondary Education, Minor in Writing, Coe College, 2004)


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