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PAGC Annual Conference
March 17-18, 2022 - virtual

Abstract submission deadline
January 21, 2022

Pennsylvania Association of Genetic Counselors

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News & Announcements

University of Pennsylvania
Genetic Counseling Program
in collaborative effort to increase diversity
in student enrollment

Warren Alpert Foundation awards $9.5 Million grant to

five genetic counseling programs for scholarships to incoming students. Scholarships include tuition and living expenses.

Admission applications to Penn due January 5, 2022.

Bev's Gift

Scholarships for genetic counseling related education

PA-PSS

PAGC releases the 2020 Report on the Pennsylvania Professional Status Survey

PAGC Justice, Equity, Diversity, and
Inclusion (JEDI) Working Group

SEPTEMBER 2021 Newsletter Issue

Scroll down to see featured genetic counseling students from the three PA GC programs

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About  PAGC

We are a 501 (c)(6) non-profit organization that supports the professional growth of the genetic counseling community in Pennsylvania. There are great opportunities on the horizon for those who would like to volunteer their time and experience to support the needs of genetic counselors in our state. Please explore our site to get to know us and visit our Membership Page for more information about how you can get involved.

View Our Executive Board

PAGC values diversity and inclusion as core tenets to the field of genetic counseling. PAGC promotes the use of language that is conscious of these principles and encourages all members of the genetic counseling community to engage in language that is acceptable. 

 

Resources for learning about fluidity in gender identity if you are looking for more information:

  • Barnes H, Morris E, Austin J. Trans-inclusive genetic counseling services: Recommendations from members of the transgender and non-binary community. J Genet Couns. 2020 Jun;29(3):423-434. doi: 10.1002/jgc4.1187. Epub 2019 Nov 11. PMID: 31710150; LINK to article

  • von Vaupel-Klein AM, Walsh RJ. Considerations in genetic counseling of transgender patients: Cultural competencies and altered disease risk profiles. J Genet Couns. 2021;30(1):98-109. doi:10.1002/jgc4.1372; LINK to article

  • Sheehan E, Bennett RL, Harris M, Chan-Smutko G. Assessing transgender and gender non-conforming pedigree nomenclature in current genetic counselors' practice: The case for geometric inclusivity. J Genet Couns. 2020 Dec;29(6):1114-1125. doi: 10.1002/jgc4.1256. Epub 2020 Mar 30. PMID: 32232917; LINK to article

PAGC Membership

PAGC was formed to promote genetics education, foster professional development,  encourage communication and facilitate access to services in the state of Pennsylvania. Professional membership, participation in conferences and webinars, and volunteer support are crucial to our success!

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Featured Genetic Counseling
Graduate Students

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Aika Miikeda

University of Pittsburgh Genetic Counseling Program


What was your major as an undergraduate?

B.S. in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics


What attracted you to pursue a career in genetic counseling?

Having personal experience with a hereditary cancer predisposition syndrome, I have been interested in the prevention of cancer and/or other diseases. When I heard about the genetic counseling profession as an undergrad and how genetic testing can provide opportunities for screening/prevention of diseases, it strongly drew me to the field. I wanted to become the one that can provide such services and opportunities to patients. 


What field of genetic counseling are you most interested in post-graduation?

I do have a strong interest in the cancer genetics field, but I am still exploring the field of my interest through clinical rotations. I believe that prevention is key, especially in the high-risk population of chronic diseases. I am hoping to combine my interest in cancer genetics and public health to increase access to genetic counseling and testing to as many individuals as possible, which can provide opportunities for preventative actions.


What has been the most valuable aspect of your training so far?

One of the most valuable aspects of my training has been having amazingly supportive and caring supervisors. Pitt GC Program uses confidence-building models where all the academic courses are done in the first year and focus on clinical rotations from the summer. The program directors have always been there to listen to my struggles and provide me with feedback on how I can overcome my obstacles.

 

Additionally, during clinical rotations, all the supervisors allow me to challenge myself with new opportunities to establish my own counseling style while reassuring me that they will be there to jump in and correct me if I ever make any mistakes. They all provide me with constructive feedback that helps me reflect and improve after every session. I am very grateful for all the supervisors who are making a safe environment for me to participate and get trained through clinical rotations.


Please provide a brief description of your thesis project.

I am working with the UPMC Hereditary GI Tumor Program for my thesis project.  I am investigating the

co-occurrence of autoimmune disorders in individuals with Lynch syndrome.

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Justin Sanine

Jefferson University Genetic Counseling Program

What was your major as an undergraduate?

Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior (title of 1 major)

Psychology Minor


What attracted you to pursue a career in genetic counseling?

During my undergraduate education, I was able to develop my passion for healthcare and education through my coursework and internships. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare, but it wasn’t until my genetics professor mentioned the field of genetic counseling that I finally realized how perfect the position would be. I love the intersection of education, patient advocacy, and medicine that is inherent in genetic counseling. Through my work as a genetic counseling assistant and as a graduate student, I’ve been continually challenged to expand my understanding of genetics and how to provide exceptional care to our patients. I can’t wait to continue this journey as I finish grad school and transition into a career position.


What field of genetic counseling are you most interested in post-graduation?

I’ve been able to rotate in prenatal, cancer, and pediatrics genetics so far in my education. Although I’ve enjoyed all three, my passion lies in pediatrics, a speciality I’ve been working in since undergrad. I particularly enjoy working with families and helping them understand and adapt to their child’s diagnosis and care. I really value participating in a multidisciplinary environment with geneticists and other healthcare professionals like dietitians and social workers. I would also enjoy working in a clinical setting that sees patients across a variety of specialties as I value working with patients from a wide range of backgrounds and believe it is conducive with the pursuit of life-long learning inherent in genetic counseling.


What has been the most valuable aspect of your training so far?

The structure of our learning and rotations has been invaluable in ensuring we understand how genetic counseling concepts can be readily applied to patient care. It has been helpful for me to have our rotations soon after we complete the relevant coursework. For example, we had our prenatal coursework the first semester and then our prenatal rotations soon after. This structure is conducive with my learning style and really aided in my ability to understand the lived experiences of patients and how to best serve them with the knowledge and skills we have as genetic counselors.


Please provide a brief description of your thesis project.
I want to evaluate patients’ experiences with students and how their comfort levels and attitudes may change when students are present. It is important to understand patients’ perspectives and determine if genetic counseling programs and supervisors can change their practices to enhance both the students’ and patients’ experiences.

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Jacob Squicciarini

University of Pennsylvania Genetic Counseling Program

What was your major as an undergraduate?

I graduated from the University of Rochester in 2019 with my B.S. in Molecular Genetics

Minor in Clinical Psychology

 

What attracted you to pursue a career in genetic counseling?

Genetic counseling sits in the cross-section of all of my major career goals and interests. It allows for continued exploration of my love of genetics while incorporating my passion for education and providing service to the community. My future in genetic counseling was solidified when I got the opportunity to work in the Division of Pediatric Genetics at the Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester, New York as a genetic counselling assistant. There I saw the incredible impact that a genetic counselor can have on a family in need, something I look forward to providing upon graduation.

 

What field of genetic counseling are you most interested in post-graduation?

After graduation I am hoping to be able to further explore the role of genetic counseling in clinics for the treatment of Differences of Sex Development (DSDs). Individuals with DSDs do not fit into what many people consider the typical gender binary based on anatomical, hormonal, or genetic differences. These individuals form a subset of patients that have been misunderstood and mistreated throughout history, but recent work by activists and medical professionals has brought these issues to light.

 

Additionally, many individuals diagnosed with a DSD also identify as intersex, an identity that many people do not realize makes up the I in LGBTQIA+. As a proud queer medical professional, I plan on using my role as a genetic counselor to further the progress made in medical care for the Intersex and LGBTQIA+ communities.

 

What has been the most valuable aspect of your training so far?

The most valuable aspect of my training so far has been my exposure to so many different clinics and genetic counselors. From my first rotation in the CHOP Endogenetics clinic to finishing my first full-participation rotation at the cancer risk evaluation program at Pennsylvania Hospital, I have been able to learn and explore in the field of genetic counseling more than I ever thought possible in a single year during a global pandemic. These experiences have introduced me to numerous counseling styles and settings, allowing me to narrow in on my own counseling style and refine my skills through trial and error.

 

Please provide a brief description of your thesis project.

My thesis project aims to better understand the experience of expectant parents when they receive discordant fetal sex results on noninvasive prenatal screening (NIPS) and ultrasound. I will be interviewing parents who recently got such discordant results identified through the Endogenetics clinic at the Roberts Individualized Medical Genetics Clinic at CHOP, the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at CHOP, and the Division of Reproductive Genetics at HUP. The information obtained from this study will provide more guidance on the specific needs of expectant parents when a pregnancy is identified to have a fetal sex discordance between NIPS and ultrasound, a phenomenon that is becoming more common with the increased use of NIPS.