Celebrating Genetic Counselor Awareness Day

Genetic counselors, such as those trained in the school’s Master of Genetic Counselor Studies Program, are critical members of health care teams who support, guide, and care for patients when there is a genetic link to their condition or illness. Nov. 11 marks Genetic Counselor Awareness Day, an occasion to recognize and honor the important work done by genetic counselors. To spotlight their profession, students and alumni in the program submitted thoughts about what inspired them to enter this career.

The school’s program is one of the oldest in the nation. The first class graduated in 1978. There are 222 alumni working across the nation, as well as internationally. In addition, alumni are well represented among program directors. Out of the approximately 50 accredited genetic counseling programs, six have been or are directed by SMPH alumni. The SMPH program is directed by Laura E. Birkeland, MS, CGC, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology.

Lorena Dujmusic

What is your role?

I am a second year Master of Genetic Counselor Studies student. 

What inspired you to become a Genetic Counselor?

Genetic counseling as a career offers what I find to be an ideal blend of providing genetics expertise, supporting patients emotionally through difficult or unexpected situations, and teaching concepts in a way that is understandable, thorough, and meets each patient where they’re at. I knew I wanted to pursue a patient-facing career, and I have a lifelong passion for teaching. When I heard about the field of genetic counseling toward the end of my undergraduate, I was hooked. Observing genetic counselors in practice further confirmed my desire to join the field. I also appreciate the flexibility of the career, making it possible to switch specialties, be a research mentor, teach graduate students, and so on, depending on my own interests, which may develop and change over the course of my career. Working with other providers in a multi-disciplinary setting is a plus as well.

What is something about your field that others may not know or find surprising?

Genetic counselors work in a variety of settings, including clinic, lab, industry, and public health.

Kate Murphy Orland, MGCS

Kate Murphy OrlandWhat is your role?

Senior Genetic Counselor, Department of Medicine

What inspired you to become a Genetic Counselor?

I first learned about genetic counseling when I took a genetics course as a junior in high school. Knowing I wanted to go in to the medical field, I explored more about the career and it was the ideal combination of scientific expertise and connecting with patients.

What is something about your field that others may not know or find surprising?

Genetics is finding its way into many areas of patient care (neurology, cardiology, personalized medicine). It is so valuable to give patients the opportunity to determine what has caused their disease and offer screening options to their family members.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thanksgiving is Family History Day — take the opportunity to talk to your relatives about their health history!

Cory Smid, MGCS

Cory SmidWhat is your role?

Genetic Counselor, Waisman Center

What inspired you to become a Genetic Counselor?

Someone close to me was diagnosed with a genetic condition while I was a teenager. At the time, my family was enamored by the empathy and patience that our genetic counselor demonstrated. Being a huge science geek, I knew this was the right path for me!

What is something about your field that others may not know or find surprising?

Genetic counseling training programs prepare folks to work in a very wide spectrum of positions — GCs can work in pediatrics/medical genetics clinics, prenatal clinics, cancer clinics, lab/industry, or any number of specialty clinics (cardiology, neurology, immunology, etc.) The world is our oyster!