The Class of 2019 Chose Pitt Because...
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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!
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
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)
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)
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)
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)