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Featured Alumni

our graduates have great success stories

Shanna Gustafson (M.S. Genetic Counseling)
I knew that I wanted to be a Genetic Counselor as early as high school. Genetics was a specialty in which I was guaranteed to learn something new every day. Genetic counseling provided the opportunity to be a part of this rapidly growing science while making it relevant to everyday healthcare. The minute that I arrived at the University of Pittsburgh for my interview I knew that I had found my new home. The size of the program was just right, not too large, not to small, and the program directors made me feel like all of the students would be well supported in whatever their needs to succeed. Prior to applying for graduate school I had done work in public health education and felt that the focus at the University of Pittsburgh- applying public health principles to genetics- was exciting and fit my interests. I believed that the availability of the Master of Science in genetic counseling and Master of Public Health dual degree program would better prepare me to educate other healthcare providers on how an understanding of genetics would improve their practice. In my public health coursework I had the advantage of working alongside and developing relationships with all types of healthcare providers, from physicians and epidemiologists to future hospital administrators, on various projects.
Following graduate school I began my career at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and learned quickly the many ways in which genetic counselors can fit into a large and rapidly growing healthcare system. My education in the University of Pittsburgh program combined with my work at the Cleveland Clinic led me to a strong interest in investigating how genetic counselors can improve their efficiency and effectiveness in the current healthcare climate. I now actively pursue opportunities to learn more about healthcare administration and its implications on access to genetic counseling services through volunteer work with the National Society of Genetic Counselors. This has included development of educational materials, committee membership, and research projects further defining genetic counselor practice. I hope that one day I can say that I played a role in the integration of genetic counselors to almost every medical specialty, and that those alliances began with my training at the University of Pittsburgh.
Sara Grams (M.S. Genetic Counseling) 2007
I received a Bachelors degree in Biology and Anthropology from University of Wisconsin-Madison (1998), and participated in the University of Pittsburgh's dual degree program in Genetic Counseling and Public Health, graduating in 2007. I have always been interested in a multidisciplinary approach to learning and found the Public Health coursework to be an excellent compliment to Pittsburgh's Genetic Counseling program. This direction of study also provided the unique opportunity to combine my interest in international genetic counseling with a special project in public health that took me to India, along with Betsy Gettig, MS. I felt that the Directors and Professors at the University of Pittsburgh encouraged both creativity and innovative thought in the field of Genetic Counseling, making for an exciting, didactic environment.
Following graduation from the University of Pittsburgh, I began working as a Genetic Counselor and Metabolic Clinic Coordinator at Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento. I remained interested in the intersection of public health and genetic counseling and enjoyed seeing metabolic patients, newly diagnosed by newborn screening. I was also able to participate in the implementation of California's newborn screening program for Cystic Fibrosis. Currently, I am working as a clinical Genetic Counselor at Kaiser, San Francisco. This position has allowed me to generalize my scope and see a wide variety of cases including, metabolic, pediatric, adult, cancer and prenatal. I believe that my experience at the University of Pittsburgh has given me a solid foundation of knowledge and unique perspective on the field of genetic counseling.
Suzanne O'Neill (M.S. Genetic Counseling) 1998
I received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and a Masters degree in liberal studies (with an emphasis in genetics) from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. After working for over 20 years at Stony Brook in a variety of positions in research, teaching and administration, I completed genetic counseling training at the University of Pittsburgh, receiving a Masters degree in genetic counseling in 1998 and certification by the ABGC in 1999. While working as a cancer genetic counselor at UPMC/Magee-Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh, I continued my studies at the University of Pittsburgh, and received a PhD in Human Genetics in 2001. My dissertation research focused on development and use of a computerized method to perform breast cancer genetic risk assessment. While working as a clinical researcher and genetic counselor at the Center for Medical Genetics at North Shore University Health System for six years, I further developed my dissertation software to create MyGenerations, an online cancer family history and risk assessment tool for the public ( I was also a principal investigator in the Centers for Disease Control Family Healthware Trial and remain active in their Family History Initiative and the Genomic Applications in Practice and Prevention Network (GAPPNet™). My years at Pitt were tremendously exciting. I was so fortunate to be able to train to be a genetic counselor under a brilliant, nationally renowned faculty and to be able to take advantage of the many opportunities in a school of public health. This background has already served me well in my collaborations with the CDC and will surely continue to be essential. I became the Associate Director of the Northwestern Genetic Counseling Program in 2008 where I teach in a variety of courses and have developed epidemiology and biostatistics teaching modules geared to genetic counseling students. I am also an Assistant Professor in the Feinberg School of Medicine, Department of Medicine and a member of the Center for Genetic Medicine at Northwestern.
Christopher Lauricella (M.S. Genetic Counseling) 2009
After graduating from the Genetic Counseling Program in 2009, I accepted a position with GeneDx, a company that specializes in genetic testing for hereditary conditions. I have found that I have been able to easily apply what I learned at school into the workplace. My work at GeneDx does not involve day-to-day contact with patients; however, I am in constant contact with other counselors and geneticists through out the day discussing testing options for various clinical cases. A significant portion of my job involves writing genetic test reports for various conditions. This helps me keep up-to-date with the scientific literature, making sure that clients are receiving the most current information, and provides me the opportunity to study a wide breadth of conditions. 
A nice advantage of working in a lab setting is being able to more fully understand the testing process (the different techniques used, how tests are developed, etc.). This allows me to discuss the results of a test more easily and gives me a greater understanding of the limitations of testing as well. Other components of my job include creating educational materials for both counselors and patients, attending various conferences and seminars to both further my education and to discuss new testing options that we offer. Rarely is there a day where I don't learn something new and that is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. I feel fortunate that my training at the University of Pittsburgh prepared me to enter such a challenging and dynamic position.
Barb Harrison (M.S. Genetic Counseling) 2012
I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Biology from University of Maryland, College Park, received a Master’s degree in Genetic Counseling from the University of Pittsburgh, and am certified by the American Board of Genetic Counselors. I am currently an Assistant Professor at Howard University and the Co-Director of the Howard University Genetic Counseling Training Program, where I teach graduate and medical students, as well as residents in various specialties. In addition to my academic duties, I provide genetic counseling services for patients at Howard University Hospital for a variety of referral reasons, in areas including prenatal, pediatric, adult, and cancer genetics. I serve as the Director for Community Outreach and Education for the HU Center for Sickle Cell Disease. I was the chair of the Public Policy Committee of the National Society of Genetic Counselors from 2007-2009, and currently serve on its Membership Committee, with a particular interest in diversity issues in membership and service delivery. From 2003- 2005, I was a member of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Society, under U.S. Secretary of Health Michael O. Leavitt. I believe my training at the University of Pittsburgh provided me with a broad array of skills that have allowed me to serve in leadership positions within the profession, to educate both health care professionals and the public about genetic issues, and to help those coping with genetic diseases.


Dorman Recognized with the 2016 Alumni Award for Teaching and Dissemination

Janice Scully Dorman (HUGEN '81, EPI '83) was recognized on May 20, 2016, with the Alumni Award for Teaching and Dissemination at the annual Alumni Awards dinner. 

Slaugenhaupt, Recipient of Alumni Award for Research

Susan Slaugenhaupt (HUGEN '88, '91) was honored with the Alumni Award for Research on May 20, 2016, at the annual Alumni Awards dinner. 

Conley Recognized with Alumni Award for Teaching and Dissemination

Yvette Conley (HUGEN '93, '99) was recognized on May 29, 2015, with the Alumni Award for Teaching and Dissemination at the Pitt Public Health annual Alumni Awards dinner.  

DC alumni reception brings together friends and colleagues

Dozens of Pitt Public Health grads from the capital area gathered at Penn Social during the 2017 ASPPH annual meeting, joining Dean Burke and host faculty for hearty conversations and refreshments. If the forecast of snow scared you away, we missed you! Access our photo albums anytime at 

Dorman receives nursing Dean’s Distinguished Teaching Award

It was announced today that alumna JANICE SCULLY DORMAN (HUGEN ’81, EPI ’83) is the recipient of the Pitt School of Nursing 2017 Dean’s Distinguished Teaching Award for tenured faculty. Dorman has taught classes at that school (and at Pitt Public Health) for 30 years, focusing primarily on molecular epidemiology and genetics. 

Human genetics reception in Orlando

Alumni, faculty, students, and friends of the Department of Human Genetics got together in Orlando, Florida, during the November 2017 annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG). It was a great reception, offering opportunities to catch up on careers, research, and school news. View more photos at . 

Modzelewski: 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award for Practice

A two-time breast cancer survivor, RUTH MODZELEWSKI (HUGEN ’96) has served as mission coordinator for Susan G. Komen Pittsburgh since 2009, when she went from researching cancer at the University of Pittsburgh to practicing and promoting cancer prevention and treatment throughout Western Pennsylvania. She oversees the Komen Pittsburgh community-based health grants program which annually gives close to $1 million back to the community. 

Talkowski: 2018 Early Career Excellence Award

MICHAEL TALKOWSKI (HUGEN ’08) is associate professor of neurology (genetics) at Harvard Medical School and the Center for Genomic Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate member of the Broad Institute of the Massachusettes Institute of Technology and Harvard where he directs the Broad Structural Variation and Assembly Group. His research has led to paradigm-shifting discoveries that have left a mark on the field of genetics. 

Celebrate 70: Local impact panel (Video)

“It’s not about doing the cool work. It’s about doing the work that is necessary for that community,” says RUTH MODZELEWSKI (HUGEN '96) in a discussion featuring faculty and alumni about their impact on local communities, including collaboration between the private and public sector, the value of community based participatory research, empowering communities with early access to data, and acknowledging the “invisible” Latino community in Pittsbu... 

HuGen alumna's creation aims to reduce radiation exposure from stress tests

PITTWIRE - Doctoral alumna MALIHA ZAHID ( HUGEN  '09) aims to reduce the amount of radiation that patients are exposed to when undergoing diagnostic imaging. Her creation, to be used during cardiac stress tests, was a previous Pitt PInCh winner.  

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