Message from the Director


We welcome your interest in Brandeis’ Genetic Counseling Program as we begin our 25th year. This year will be a time to celebrate all that we have accomplished as a program and to thank all of the wonderful students and alumni who had the desire and courage to share in “this crazy dream of mine” –a dream that honors my son Andreas who had Canavan disease and that trains genetic counselors with the knowledge, sensitivity and counseling skills to help families like ours. Twenty-five years ago there was no cancer genetic counseling or panel testing or whole exome sequencing or NIPT, but there have always been families in need of genetic counselors. Our goal in 1992 – and now – is to provide students with comprehensive training so that they can work as genetic counselors in clinical genetics, clinical research, diagnostic testing laboratories or public health genetics. I am delighted to continue in my role as Founding Director and to have the pleasure of working with Gretchen Schneider, our wonderful Co-Director; Gayun Chan-Smutko, a cancer genetic counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brandeis alum and our Assistant Program Director; and the extraordinary Missy Goldberg who has kept the program running efficiently and with care since 1995. And I would be remiss not to mention the many talented genetic counselors who give generously of their time to supervise Brandeis students in their internships, help guide their master’s thesis research and introduce them to the expanding roles held by non-clinical genetic counselors.

This year is also a time of transition for the program. I will be stepping down as Program Director at the end of this academic year and turning over the reins to the very capable hands of Gretchen Schneider. Gretchen has been with the Brandeis Program from the very beginning. She started as a Clinical Supervisor for students doing their pediatric internships at Childrens Hospital in 1993, added on the role of Co-Instructor for our Clinical Genetics class in 2001, and 8 years ago she joined me as Co-Director where she continues to teach and coordinate our students’ clinical internships. I have every confidence that Gretchen, along with Gayun and all of the other faculty who work at Brandeis, will continue our tradition of excellence and disability focus.

Since our first class completed their training in 1994, the Brandeis Genetic Counseling Program has graduated more than 200 genetic counselors. Many of our alumni hold leadership positions in the field or are active in pushing the boundaries of the profession into new and exciting non-clinical areas. Others work directly with patients and their families or coordinate clinical genetics research. Despite the changes in the field, our core priorities remain unchanged: providing students with a first class education in both the classroom and the clinic; empowering students with the clinical and research skills that will allow them to grow and adapt along with the demands of the profession; and increasing students’ exposure, comfort level and sensitivity to children and adults with disabilities.

We encourage you to look through our website, learn about our curriculum, read about our faculty and gain insight into our alums’ interests by leafing through the list of their thesis research.

Our students represent a diverse group and we strongly encourage applicants from all walks of life: those who might be making a career change; those who want to re-enter the workforce in a new field; those who have always wanted to be a genetic counselor; or simply those who have just discovered the field and feel it’s the right career for them. We hope to hear from you and welcome any questions you might have.