Current Students

Minimize The Class of 2024 Chose Pitt Because...

Grace Waldow

Why I Chose Pitt: I chose to attend Pitt because the program emphasizes public health, concentrates the course load in the first year, and trains students to be effective genetic counselors. I have worked with several genetic counselors who graduated from the Pitt program and admire the knowledge base and flexibility they developed; in addition, the program came with the highest of recommendations! Pitt is unique because of the extensive hospital systems in Pittsburgh, allowing genetic counselors and students to serve diverse patient populations and gain exposure to a variety of cases. Finally, while interviewing, I was impressed that program leadership was innovative, efficient, and fostered a collaborative and friendly atmosphere with their students.
Background: Genetic Counseling Assistant (UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh); Biology and Chemistry Tutor (University of Pittsburgh Athletics); Sexual Assault Counselor (Pittsburgh Action Against Rape); Health Center Advocacy Program Volunteer (Planned Parenthood of Western PA); Business Manager of Planned Parenthood Club (University of Pittsburgh); Organic Chemistry I Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (University of Pittsburgh); Cofounder of the Peer Survivors' Support Network (University of Pittsburgh); Undergraduate Research Assistant (Learning in Neural Systems Lab, University of Pittsburgh); GC Shadowing (UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Master Genetic Counselor Series)
Work Position: Genetic Counseling Assistant (Laboratory Genetic Testing Utilization Management, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh)
Grace Waldow (BS biological sciences and psychology, minors in chemistry and classical civilization, University of Pittsburgh, 2022)

Elian Buchi

Why I chose Pitt: The University of Pittsburgh’s Genetic Counseling program is a prestigious and rigorous program that allows students the ability to customize their learning experience alongside highly esteemed colleagues, faculty, and staff. I was drawn to this program due to my passion for public health, genetics and affording my future patients and families high-quality, evidence-based patient care. I believe that the School of Public Health is the place for me, and I am excited to complement my undergraduate studies of Bio-behavioral Health while adding to my knowledge, experience, and passion for genetic counseling. I was attracted to the University of Pittsburgh because of the location being in close proximity to world-renowned teaching hospitals and clinics. With the numerous subspecialties of genetic counseling, having a variety of clinics available to students will give them the best opportunity for learning during the clinical year of the program. Furthermore, being in an urban environment allows for more exposure to a wide range of patients from various cultural backgrounds and languages. Additionally, this program is design in a way that concentrates all the course work in the first year, thus leaving the second year for clinical rotations. In my view, this was an advantage point for the program at the University of Pittsburgh due to the ability for students to apply what they learned in the classroom on rotations. Finally, from the moment I learned about the Genetic Counseling program at Pitt and in talking with the faculty, staff, and students, I was able to sense the supportive and cohesive environment within the program. The students shared my passion for collaboration and bringing patient-centered care to the forefront of an ever changing filed. They seemed to care a lot about each other and eager to help one another, I felt that there was a collaborative rather than a competitive attitude. It is my honor to be in the 2024 cohort of the university of Pittsburgh’s Genetic Counseling program learning alongside the best and brightest in our field.
Background: Genetic counseling shadowing experience at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital in Lawrenceville, Magee women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital in Monroeville PA. Research assistant at Penn State University New Kensington Department of Criminal Justice. Substitute teacher at Burrell High School. Volunteer fire fighter Lowe Burrell Fire Company #3
Work Position: COVID-19 Concierge (University of Pittsburgh)
Elian Buchi (Bachelor of Science in Bio Behavioral Health, Penn State University, May 2021, Magna Cum Laude)

Nicole Weise

Why I chose Pitt: The first genetic counselor that I ever shadowed was a Pitt graduate, and I have had the opportunity to interview several other graduates who spoke highly of Pitt’s MSGC program. Each emphasized the ample amount of support offered by program leadership, current students, and clinical supervisors in Pittsburgh. This support is the reason I chose Pitt: the program’s confidence-building model provides students with a strong educational foundation that they can properly utilize in the clinic. As an older program applicant, I felt that this model would enable me to relearn complex genetic concepts and attain the support I needed before diving into rotations. Additionally, Pitt’s MSGC program is housed within the School of Public Health, which enables its students to earn a more multidisciplinary viewpoint of genetics. Pitt MSGC students are able to take courses with other students in the Human Genetics Department and the School of Public Health. Because genetic counselors work with a wide variety of researchers and care providers, being able to learn alongside students from other disciplines and programs will provide me with the chance to interact with and learn from my future colleagues.
Background: Executive Administrator (La Jolla Institute for Immunology); Veterinary Technician Assistant (VCA CARE Specialty and Emergency Animal Hospital); Teaching Assistant (UC Santa Barbara Orfalea Family Children’s Center); Volunteer Researcher (UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center); Crisis Counselor (Crisis Text Line and The Trevor Project); COVID-19 Vaccine Super Station Volunteer Coordinator (UC San Diego Health); Genetic Counseling Intern (Ridley-Tree Cancer Center); Tutor and Peer Mentor (UCSB-HHMI Undergraduate Science Research Program)
Nicole Weise, PMP (BS biological sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2016)

Gabi Slizewska

Why I chose Pitt: I knew this program would be my top choice right after my admissions interview. The leadership is incredibly kind and approachable. It’s clear that they are excited about the work they do, and it’s impossible not to get excited with them! While the program is well-established, the leadership is very open to change and feedback from students. Each aspect of the program is well-thought-out. With most coursework taking place in the first year, students are able to focus on absorbing knowledge and get ready to apply the things they learn to the clinical rotations in the second year. There is a lot of focus on improving diversity, equity, and inclusion within the program and within the genetic counseling field, which is important to me. The program is also located within the school of public health which gives students a more patient and community oriented education.
Background: Education Content Manager and Science Content Creator (Expii), volunteer at Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, trained listener (7 Cups of Tea)
Gabi Slizewska (BS Natural Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, 2019)

Emily Hrach

Why I chose Pitt: Pitt’s program has always been a dream for me. I loved that the first-year concentrates on coursework and that the program is one of the most established in the country. UPMC and AGH are incredible healthcare networks, and I knew that I would be learning from some of the best genetic counselors. During initial meetings and information sessions, it was clear that the faculty was knowledgeable and passionate, which was important to me when choosing a school. Later, during my interviews, everyone I met was extremely kind and eager to talk about what makes Pitt’s program special. Between the various certificate options, a wide variety of clinical rotations, and its renowned reputation, there was nowhere I would rather pursue my degree. Pittsburgh is also my hometown, and I’m so excited to move back to my favorite city with its vibrant neighborhoods, beautiful parks, and wonderful people.
Background: Crisis Line Supervisor (Ozone House Family Services, Ypsilanti, MI) ; Genetic Testing Accessioning Technician (Progenity, Ann Arbor, MI) ; Undergraduate Research Assistant (Molecular Genetics of Blood Clotting, University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute, Ann Arbor, MI) ; Volunteer Neurorehabilitation Assistant (Milestones Pediatric Neurorehabilitation Clinic, Ann Arbor, MI) ; President of F.E.M.M.E.S. (Women+ Excelling More in Math, Engineering, and the Sciences) ; Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Health Honors Society
Emily Hrach (BS biology, health, and society, minor in the history of health and medicine, University of Michigan 2021)

Alex Larson637957511224101990

Why I chose Pitt: The bold vision statement of Pitt’s program hooked me immediately. After attending open houses and speaking with current students, I recognized that Pitt’s program is truly committed to building leaders in a future that embraces genomics in healthcare. More importantly, my interview with Pitt reinforced that program leadership emphasizes integrity, collaboration, and sincere attention to student feedback. Since the program is housed within the School of Public Health, I was also intrigued by professional training on how to improve patient health at both individual and community levels. The Pitt program boasts a few other dazzling features that caught my eye such as a primary care rotation, supplemental certificate programs, and opportunities to participate in LEND. A lot of little things and friendly faces stirred up the gut feeling that Pitt would foster a great start to my career in genetic counseling and I could not be more thrilled.
Background: Genetic Counselor Assistant (Michigan Medicine); COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination Coordinator (Optalis Healthcare); Rehabilitation Technician (Hope Network Neuro Rehabilitation); Client Advocate (Positive Options); Microbiology Laboratory Technician (Hope College Biology); REU Intern (Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience); Student Researcher (Hope College Chemistry)
Alexandra Larson (BS biology, Hope College, 2019)

Caitlyn Sibiskie

Why I chose Pitt: Pitt’s GC program stood out to me because of its basis in public health and the ability to pursue a dual degree in genetic counseling and public health genetics. When I began my MPH in 2021 I instantly felt welcomed and supported by both the faculty and my peers, and I couldn’t imagine pursuing a degree in genetic counseling anywhere else. As a dual degree student I am excited to be able to apply the knowledge that I have learned in public health courses to genetic counseling, and learn about genetic counseling through a public health lens. I am also excited to be able to continue to explore Pittsburgh. I am from a small town and moving to the city was daunting to me, but I have found Pittsburgh to be very welcoming and approachable. I am so happy and grateful to be able to call Pittsburgh home for two more years!
Background: Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities Medium-Term Trainee (LEND, University of Pittsburgh); Applied Behavioral Analysis Technician (Positive Behavior Supports Corp.; Attain ABA); GC Shadowing (Geisinger Medical Center; Helen and Harry Gray Cancer Center at Hartford Hospital); Crisis Counselor (Crisis Text Line); Undergraduate Research Assistant (Neuroscience Department, Western New England University); Data Intern (Broadstreet’s COVID-19 Data Project); Healthy Sexuality Co-Facilitator (Girls Inc. of the Valley Eureka Program)
Caitlyn Sibiskie (BS psychology and neuroscience, Western New England University, 2020)

Saad Akhtar

Why I chose Pitt: When considering which programs I wanted to apply to during my application process, I thought a lot about the focus of each program, where they were located and what opportunities would be available to me as a student. Pitt’s focus on public health and the option of pursuing a dual MPH/MS degree as part of it’s program was a major factor in influencing my decision to come here as a student. Having worked at a few different healthcare related positions after completing my undergraduate degree, I was really interested in public health and healthcare both inside and outside a clinical setting, so it was important to me that the program I was in also shared those values. I also appreciated the fact that Pitt is located centrally in a major city with access to public transportation and a relatively low cost of living as compared to other cities across the US. I appreciate that there’s something to do every weekend here and lots of opportunities to get involved in organizations both on and off campus. The sense of community and collaboration within the Human Genetics department was also really appealing to me as well as someone new to Pittsburgh. As a person of color and first generation immigrant, the departments commitment to DEI efforts was important to me as well.
Background: Intern (Bridging the Gaps Pittsburgh); Genetics Patient Service Coordinator (Massachusetts General Hospital); Site Coordinator (Skylight Health); EMT (Fallon Ambulance);Laboratory Technician (Eton Biosciences); Lab Assistant (UMass Amherst);Volunteer/Youth Division Coordinator (Red Cross)
Work Position: Genetic Counseling Assistant at UPMC Hereditary GI Tumor Program
Saad Akhtar (BS in Biology, UMass Amherst 2016)

Gopika Rajanikanth

Why I chose Pitt: I attended Pitt as an undergraduate, and during my time here, I learned a lot about the Pitt genetic counseling program that made me want to continue my education here. I was involved with the Pitt genetic counseling club, and every year, we invited first and second year students from the Pitt genetic counseling program to speak to us about their experiences. Based on these interactions, I could tell that the students were all supportive of each other and that the program created an encouraging environment for them. In addition, I like the fact that Pitt’s program utilized the confidence-building model, and students completed all their coursework in the first year before transitioning into rotations. I felt that approach suited my learning style and would help me feel more prepared and confident in my abilities before working with actual patients. Lastly, I appreciate the fact that the program is housed within the School of Public Health and students are able to tailor their education with certificates or the dual degree because it will give us a unique perspective during our future careers. I’ve really enjoyed my time in Pittsburgh the last few years, and I’m excited to continue my training at Pitt!
Background: Business Manager and Communications Committee Editor-in-Chief (Pitt Genetic Counseling Club), Crisis Counselor (Crisis Text Line), Classroom Teaching Assistant for Adult Basic Education Classes (Goodwill Southwestern Pennsylvania), Undergraduate Research Assistant (Pitt Department of Health and Human Development), Biology Peer Advisor (Pitt Department of Biological Sciences), Camp Counselor (PALS Programs), Genetic Counseling Shadowing (UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital)
Gopika Rajanikanth (BS biological sciences, minors in chemistry and creative writing, certificate in global health, University of Pittsburgh, 2022)

Leann To

Why I chose Pitt: As a Vietnamese American woman, I wanted to enter the field as someone who is passionate about health equity and inclusion, and I was confident that the University of Pittsburgh’s Counseling program would train me to be a perceptive genetic counselor who is dedicated to patient-centered and culturally competent care. With the second oldest genetic counseling program in the country, I admired the fact that a well-established program continues to adapt and evolve alongside the ever-changing field of genetics. Additionally, my extensive research background has taught me the importance of integrating genetics research into clinical and public health settings, and with Pitt’s emphasis on public health, I am excited to expand my knowledge and skillset as a graduate student. I aspire to advocate for my patients through equitable education and culturally competent care, mentor and empower future genetic counselors from underrepresented backgrounds, and advocate for initiatives to diversify the historically homogenous genetic counseling workforce. The program’s interdisciplinary approach, student-centered faculty and leadership, and robust clinical opportunities will help me succeed in my goals and prepare me as a leader in the field of genetic counseling.
Background: NIH Clinical Research Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow (Bethesda, MD); NIH Academy Fellow (Bethesda, MD); NIH Peer Mentor (Bethesda, MD); NIH Community College Summer Enrichment Program Intern (Bethesda, MD); Genetic Counseling Shadowing (National Cancer Institute, National Eye Institute); Text Line Volunteer (Crisis Text Line); Manos Juntas Free Medical Clinic Volunteer (Oklahoma City, OK)
Leann To (B.S. in Microbiology, University of Oklahoma, 2019)

Victoria Kostour

Why I chose Pitt: As I was looking through genetic counseling programs, Pitt stood out to me for many reasons. Firstly, I appreciated Pitt’s emphasis on collaboration across disciplines. The ability to take classes with students outside the genetic counseling program as well as pursue a dual degree in public health was highly unique. Even as a well-established program, it was evident that the program leadership was committed to evolving with students’ needs. I valued the program’s confidence-building model, so that students feel empowered entering clinical rotations their second year and use that time to focus on developing their counseling skills. I also couldn’t discount the opportunities the city itself brought. The population diversity, healthcare systems, food scene, and dynamic topography of Pittsburgh were all such an added plus! Considering these factors, I knew the program at Pitt would support my career goals and best prepare me to pioneer the future of genomic medicine.
Background: Undergraduate Research Assistant (NP-OILD Lab, Department of Nutrition, University of Connecticut); Honors Guide for Peer Success Mentor (Honors Program, University of Connecticut); Virtual Genetic Counseling PURE Internship (Medical College of Wisconsin); Volunteer Crisis Counselor (Crisis Text Line)
Victoria Kostour (B.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology, B.S. in Psychological Science; University of Connecticut, 2022)

Megan Zieber

Why I chose Pitt: As a graduate student in the Master of Public Health (MPH) in Public Health Genetics Program, continuing in Pitt’s Genetic Counseling Program was a natural fit.Living in Pittsburgh the past two years, I found many ways to be involved in this beautiful “City of Three Rivers”.During that time, I built a support network of faculty and fellow students who genuinely care about my progression as a genetics professional and individual.I was also drawn to Pitt’s confidence-building curriculum.I prefer to be as prepared as possible, so having most of the coursework under my belt before applying it in clinical rotations appealed to me.The diversity of populations and accessible world-renowned healthcare systems in the Pittsburgh area solidified my choice of programs.I am excited to continue my education at Pitt as a dual degree student.
Background: Certified Crisis Counselor (Crisis Text Line); Graduate LEND Trainee (University of Pittsburgh); Mentor for BSPH Students (University of Pittsburgh); Intern (COTRAIC, Early Head Start); GC Shadowing (Geisinger Medical Center); Undergraduate Research Assistant (Genetics of Neurodevelopmental Disorders in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Penn State); Volunteer (UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh & UPMC Community General Osteopathic Hospital); All Things Genetics Club Member (University of Pittsburgh)
Work Position: Certified Pharmacy Technician (Rite Aid)
Megan Zieber (BS Biochemistry/Molecular Biology & BS Psychology: Neuroscience, Pennsylvania State University, 2020)

Maximize The Class of 2023 chose pitt because...

Maximize The Class of 2022 Chose Pitt Because...