At Insight, we have the pleasure of helping to train the next generation of genetic counselors through internship opportunities with the Genetic Counseling Graduate Program at Northwestern University. With today being the first annual Genetic Counselor Awareness Day, we wanted to ask our current interns why they are so excited to join the field of genetic counseling and how they got to where they are today.
Genetic Counseling student
Hi Everyone! Happy Genetic Counselor Awareness Day!
My name is Kelsey Hogan and I am a first-year genetic counseling student at Northwestern University. I have an amazing opportunity to be an intern at Insight during the length of my time at Northwestern’s program. I am SO excited to join an amazing and dynamic field that genetic counseling is. Today is the first annual Genetic Counselor Awareness Day and I want to share my journey to becoming a genetic counselor. I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and that is where I first learned about this wonderful field. Medical school was not for me, neither was clinical psychology. With a passion for genetics and a background in psychology, I was certain this profession would tick off every box I was looking for in a career. I was fascinated with how many different areas that genetic counselors are integrated in and how many unique issues a genetic counselor can face. Genetic counselors are more than just healthcare professionals, they are advocates, researchers, educators, and policymakers. As both the profession and genetic technology expands, I am confident I am entering into a dynamic and fascinating field.
Life as a genetic counseling graduate student is awesome but challenging. Currently my classes consist of a combination of general genetics, clinical genetics, while focusing on communication and psychosocial skills. I will eventually rotate to many clinical rotation sites, including Insight, to learn hands-on about genetic counseling. I am looking forward to making an impact in patients’ lives and working alongside genetic counselors. When I am not in class, I enjoy the many perks of living in Chicago.
On this first awareness day, I want to recognize all past, present and future genetic counselors that are a part of my journey. Chicago’s genetic counselors are an enthusiastic and compassionate community that I excited to learn from and be a part of. I am confident I made the right decision to choose genetic counseling!
Genetic counseling student
My name is Alex Lao and I am also a first-year genetic counseling student at Northwestern University. I’m also lucky enough to be an intern at Insight Medical Genetics, as Kelsey mentioned before.
Kelsey already covered some of the general overview topics, so I’d like to share a bit more about my personal journey into genetic counseling to hopefully, give helpful information to the people who were in my shoes a couple years ago.
Like Kelsey, I grew up set on the fact that I wanted to pursue medicine. My parents were supportive of that choice, encouraging me the whole way. I went into undergrad at St. Olaf College thinking just that, I would complete the pre-med track and apply to medical school and be on my way. Shadowing physicians was an eye-opening experience for me.
One of the main things that I wanted to do as a physician, was get to know my patients, let them know they were heard and solve their medical issues. I had the opportunity to shadow some amazing physicians, but the system itself seemed like an assembly line. Over and over, the emphasis seemed to be diagnosing the patient as quickly as possible and moving on to the next patient. As someone who was really excited about the interpersonal aspects of medicine, this wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.
So for a little while, I was lost. I still wanted to utilize my biology degree that I had spent four years on, but I needed something with a much stronger interpersonal aspect. Luckily for me, my genetics professor recommended I look into genetic counseling, so I did. To my surprise, genetic counseling was exactly what I was looking for. I could apply my biology degree, and work with patients on a much more personal level. Some of the conversations in a counseling sessions can be incredibly painful and difficult, but if anyone was going to do it, I wanted to make sure it was someone who truly cared
Fast forward a year or two, I’m continually impressed by the genetic counseling community around me at Northwestern. From the wonderful people at Insight, to the amazing genetic counselors who take time out of their busy schedules to lecture. The amount of empathy and compassion in this community is astounding. It feels like being part of one big family. Everyone in this field seems to be drawn together by their passion for helping others. There is an inexplicable warmth in this community. If you have any interest in the healthcare field, I strongly encourage you to take a look at genetic counseling. A couple years ago, I could never imagine myself living in Chicago, studying genetic counseling. However, deciding to pursue genetic counseling was the best decision I’ve ever made.
The National Society of Genetic Counselors has many resources for those who are interested in finding out more information:
About Genetic Counselors: https://www.nsgc.org/page/aboutgeneticcounselors
Prospective Students: https://www.nsgc.org/page/frequently-asked-questions-students