Why Genetic Counseling?

What is Genetic Counseling (GC)? That’s a question us GC people get often. Just to make sure we’re all on the same page I’m going to paste and copy NSGC’s (National Society of Genetic Counselors) definition here. I’ll probably elaborate on it more in future posts.

” Genetic counseling is the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease. This process integrates:
* Interpretation of family and medical histories to assess the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence.
* Education about inheritance, testing, management, prevention, resources and research.
* Counseling to promote informed choices and adaptation to the risk or condition. (nsgc.org).”

Anyways, why did I choose to go into genetic counseling?

I’ve always been interested in science and took a genetics class my junior year in high school. It wasn’t an easy class, but I loved it. We didn’t have textbooks, instead the teacher used current events to teach us about genetics (the best way to teach). I found out from one of my high school interpreters a few weeks ago that this teacher passed away from cancer over the summer I was disappointed because I always wanted to tell him that I ended up in the genetics field.

Anyways, when I graduated from high school I still hadn’t decided on what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” I could not decide between genetics, education, or psychology. I decided to just start working towards my B.S. in Genetics just because I had to pick a degree. I figured that out of those 3 possible careers I might as well as pick the one that would be the more challenging one for me. I’m not saying that the other 2 careers are not challenging, they are in their own ways. I’m just saying that out of those 3 careers, genetics was the more challenging one for me.

Anyways, I had it in my twisted way of thinking that it would be much easier to start off with the more difficult degree and if I changed my mind down the path…it would be easier to switch from a more difficult degree to a less difficult degree than switching from a less difficult degree to a more difficult degree. I also took a few psychology classes and enjoyed them. I worked at a daycare and enjoyed that also. Time went along and I could not decide what I wanted to do, I put off officially declaring my degree for as long as I could (until either the last semester of my junior year or first semester of my senior year when we were supposed to declare it by our junior year).

Over a period of 4 years I tried to take into consideration which career would I be more likely to get a job as a deaf person? One thing I did consider and many people pushed me to consider was to work in a lab. That sounded like a great idea to me since I liked science and it wouldn’t require much verbal communication with hearing people within the lab. I tried working in 4 different labs and hated it. I hated sitting in the same spot all day, I hated not interacting with a living and breathing object aside from drosophilas (aka fruit flies). You can’t hold a conversation or interact with dorsophilas. I kept trying to convince myself that I just needed to find the right lab and the right project. I worked in 4 different labs and found out that I just did not have the attention span or patience to work in a lab.


Wow, the eyes are a bit creepy in this picture!

Remember, this is the person who actually tried to make a pumpkin pie with 2.5 cups of salt. I somehow managed to read “1/2 teaspoon” as 2.5 cups. I even reread the directions 3 times because I thought 2.5 cups was a bit much. Turns out I combined 2 lines of instructions into 1 sentence. I can be very detailed and very good at following directions except when it comes to these kind of directions.

This is also the person who managed to drop a PCR gel (nongenetic people-you basically amplify DNA samples on these) on her bare foot the one time she wore flip-flops to lab (in my defense I had left to let an experiment run for several hours and changed into flip-flops. I just had to take the gel out and take a picture of it, that’s all). I also managed to have a little crisis when making gel for a PCR. I had put the liquid mixture into a beaker and put the beaker on a stirring plate while it was too hot….liquid flew out of the beaker EVERYWHERE and solidified EVERYWHERE. Oh yea, I also accidentally set a lab bench on fire (thankfully, I wasn’t the only on in our lab who did that!).

Anyways, I kept forcing myself to try the whole lab experience because it seemed so perfect in terms of communicating with hearing co-employers and it would be easier to get hired as a deaf person. I wouldn’t mind working in a lab part-time but could not handle working in a lab full-time.

During my whole 4 years of undergraduate, I kept trying to talk myself out of becoming a genetic counselor. How would I get a job in a field that requires so much verbal communication? I could never fully talk myself out of it and I kept coming back to it. I finally realized that I needed to stop trying to force myself to fit into something and choose something that fit me even if it may not seem like the most practical idea at that time.

What is it about genetic counseling that I enjoy so much?
I love the balance of interacting with people and research/independent work.
I love how it combines more than just one disciplinary (genetics, psychology, education, etc.).
I enjoy the non-tradition part of genetic counseling where I can branch out into other fields such as bioethics, public health, etc.
I enjoy educating people and learning from them (it’s a 2-way process).
It’s always changing.
There’s always something new to learn, it keeps me on my toes.
It’s a field where you truly have to have a passion for learning.
I enjoy interacting with a diverse population.
I like being able to help people make informed decisions.
It’s a challenging and a rewarding field.

I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you all for now 😉

2 thoughts on “Why Genetic Counseling?

  1. Lol…I’m sorry but your experiences in the lab are too funny. I can’t say I’m without problems. Even though I enjoy working on cars a lot, there have been times where just simply touching a vehicle would cause it to fall apart. A favorite phrase at the shop I’m working at is “So did you destroy any car today?”. lol. Lab fire…man. I’m glad no one was hurt though.

  2. I love all those same things about genetic counseling. We came to the decision of genetic counseling very differently but I think it’s interesting how our views on the disability part of it are very similar.

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