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SAVE THE DATES:

PAGC Annual Spring Conference

March 2-3, 2023

at Geisinger Health Center (Danville) with Virtual Option

Pennsylvania Association

of Genetic Counselors

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News & Announcements

University of Pennsylvania
Genetic Counseling Program
awarded grant to increase diversity
in student enrollment

Warren Alpert Foundation awards $9.5 Million grant to

the University of Pennsylvania for scholarships to incoming students. Scholarships include tuition and living expenses. Four other genetic counseling programs are participating in awarding scholarships. UPenn Program Director, Kathy Valverde, is the P.I. 

PA-PSS

PAGC releases the 2020 Report on the Pennsylvania Professional Status Survey

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SEPTEMBER 2022 Newsletter Issue

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Consider joining a PAGC Committee!
Position OPEN - Chair of Genetic Services;
email pagcmembership@gmail.com if interested in position

Bev's Gift

For the second year, PAGC is privileged to offer the Beverly Tenenholz Memorial Scholarship (Bev’s Gift).
Scholarships are intended for individuals who require financial assistance with costs related to
professional development activities.

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

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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Phuc Thi Hong Do

University of Pittsburgh Genetic Counseling Program


What was your major as an undergraduate?

Major was genetics, which was a subset of biology. I had the chance to take classes related to genetic mechanisms of different aspects of medicine, including cancer or regenerative therapy, as well as the molecular biology of genetic technologies.


What attracted you to pursue a career in genetic counseling?

Genetics had always captivated my interest, ever since I first learned about Mendelian inheritance and the theory of evolution in high school. Combined with the longer session time allotted for patient interaction, genetic counseling is a perfect blend of exploring my interest and utilizing that knowledge to guide patients through the benefits, limitations, and nuances of genetic testing. Even though genetic results do not always entail good news, it is satisfying to have contributed to the patient arriving at their best personal choices, informed and equipped with good information.

Additionally, genetic counseling in my country of Vietnam is still pretty much non-existent. Therefore, to a lot of Vietnamese people (especially immigrants), genetics is still a vague, unfamiliar piece of health information about which patients may have a lot of doubt. By joining the field, I hope to contribute to spreading awareness among my community of how genetics can be used to elucidate the nature of various conditions or illnesses, which in turn leads to meaningful changes in clinical management and family planning.


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

Since I am still early in my clinical rotation, I have not decided on the specialty to focus on post-graduation. However, I enjoy rotating through different specialties/aspects of the field, while envisioning how I may utilize my training with cultural understanding to improve the implementation of screening and testing within the Viet community. For example, in prenatal genetics, there are delivery options and resources (including medical intervention, doula support, prenatal bereavement) that patients might not be aware of, and a recent immigrant from Vietnam most likely would not imagine that such options exist. I can strive to customize my care so patients fully know what is available and works best for them, taking into account the potential variations in their culture and background.

I am looking forward to my optional rotation involving industrial exposure. Previously, the variant interpretation seminars from GeneDx helped me realize the importance of enhancing diversity in genetic databases. I am excited to see what differences can be made from an industrial point of view to enhance accessibility and diversity in genetic testing for underserved and minority populations.


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

Throughout the training I continue to see multiple aspects in which I need to learn and grow. One aspect from which I am constantly learning is incorporating supervisors’ feedback and making it my own. Having the tendency of being self-critical, I reached out to my program director before my first clinical rotation for feedback and advice. What she said stays with me every day: try not to beat myself up, take the feedback, and move on - focusing on what I can do. I have been very lucky to be guided by clinical supervisors who are extremely eager to help me learn. In their own ways, they go above and beyond to build my confidence and facilitate my learning. Keeping that in mind has helped me minimize my nervousness following a difficult session, focusing instead on growing based on feedback and developing my own style.


Please provide a brief description of your thesis project.

With non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), there are concerns around whether patients are aware of the nuances surrounding the test. My thesis project involves a survey regarding the clinical guidelines on offering NIPT and related benefits/challenges. The results could guide development of resources to support genetic counselors and tailor NIPT sessions to meet the patients’ needs.

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Aidan Kennedy

Jefferson University Genetic Counseling Program

What was your major as an undergraduate?

Psychology


What attracted you to pursue a career in genetic counseling?

Genetic counseling, in my opinion, offers the opportunity to enjoy a uniquely personal relationship with the patients we serve through the privilege of time to explore how we can best meet their needs.


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

I am most interested in being involved with cancer genetics after I graduate. In addition to having come to love this area of genetics while working as a genetic counseling assistant, I have greatly enjoyed my time working in this area as a student and feel privileged to be a part of patients’ and families’ conversations on this challenging topic.


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

So far, the most valuable aspect of my training has been having the ability to be mentored by genetic counselors at various facilities throughout our community. The experience of learning from numerous counselors with different styles of practice and expertise has been immensely informative.


Please provide a brief description of your thesis project.
My thesis project is exploring patients’ and genetic counselors’ experiences being engaged in video-assisted genetic counseling visits in an outpatient cancer genetics environment.


 

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Allayna Frank

University of Pennsylvania Genetic Counseling Program

What was your major as an undergraduate?

Biomedical Sciences and a minor in Communication.

 

What attracted you to pursue a career in genetic counseling?

I grew up with a developmental disability and around many others that also had them, so I always knew that I wanted to help kids navigate the physical and psychosocial challenges unique to their disabilities. After shadowing many healthcare professions as an undergrad, I felt that genetic counseling would give me the greatest opportunity to provide physical and psychosocial care.

 

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

Pediatric! In this setting, many kids are growing up with their genetic conditions and figuring out how to incorporate them with their identities. I want to help kids find as much autonomy and peace with their conditions as possible.

 

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

Patient stories and immersions into “the lived experience.” We read books written by patients or their family members every semester, and I learn so much about the social challenges faced by these people. I believe that social challenges are the most difficult to assess in a counseling session, and I’ve learned to be especially cognizant of that.

 

Please provide a brief description of your thesis project.

My study is titled: “Disability, diversity and inclusion: A survey of genetic counselors with disabilities.” I have been surveying genetic counselors who identify as having disabilities about their experiences with workplace accommodations, disability disclosure to supervisors, colleagues, and patients, and support from diversity and inclusion initiatives.