Laura Birkeland named next Director of Master of Genetic Counselor Studies

A message from Elizabeth M. Petty, MD, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

Dear colleagues,

I am absolutely delighted to announce that Laura Birkeland, MS, CGC, recently accepted our offer and became the UWSMPH program director for Master of Genetic Counselor Studies on April 24, 2022. She succeeds Catherine “Casey” Reiser, who after over 20 years as program director, will enjoy a very well-deserved retirement and become an emeritus faculty member. In this role, Laura will provide expert leadership, vision, and oversight to continue the growth and positive impact of this key health professions education program.

Photo of woman with long brown hair standing behind a cow statue. She is smiling and wearing a sweater with a cow print on it.
Laura Birkeland, MS, CGC, who became program director of Master of Genetic Counselor Studies on April 24.

Laura earned her BA in Biology at Gustavus Adolphus College in 2000, and after completing her MS in Medical Genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2007, she began her clinical work in prenatal genetic counseling with UnityPoint Health-Meriter. In 2010, she joined the MGCS program where she developed her interest in program development and student education. She has been the assistant program director for the Master of Genetic Counselor Studies program at SMPH since 2014.

Laura joined SMPH in 2006 as a Teaching Assistant for Genetic Disorders and a Project Assistant in Maternal and Child Health. Along with her clinical work at UPH-Meriter, and her current role as assistant program director, she also is a Senior Genetic Counselor at Waisman Center, and an Assistant Professor (CHS) in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She coordinates and teaches two courses for genetic counseling students in metabolic genetics and prenatal genetics. She has mentored several genetic counseling students with their research projects and works directly with genetic counseling students in the clinical setting. In addition to her dedication to genetic counseling students, she strives to connect genetics with medicine for medical students, residents, and fellows. She has noted that a favorite part of her job is working with students; she is continually amazed by our students and honored to be a part of their journey toward becoming a part of the health care community.

I want to thank our Recruitment Committee Co-Chairs: Ginny Snyder, PhD, Physician Assistant Program director, and Kendra Maier, JD, MPH, Assistant Dean of Academic Accreditation, Policies, & Operations, as well as the many faculty, staff, and students throughout Academic Affairs and beyond for their time and commitment in identifying and helping to recruit the best candidate for this position from a pool of highly competitive national applicants.

Please join me in thanking Casey for her many years of expert, innovative leadership, dedication to learners, and deep commitment to service within and beyond the program, and in welcoming Laura Birkeland to her new role.


Elizabeth M. Petty, MD
Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Medical Director, Genetic Counselor Program
Professor, Department of Pediatrics
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health