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 (http://www.northshore.org/genetics/mygenerations).
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
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
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.