The Genetic Counseling Program

Welcome from the Director and Co-Directors

Judith Tsipis, Director

tsipis2012 was a very special year for Brandeis' Genetic Counseling Program. It was the program's 20th Anniversary and my 20th as its (founding) Director. To celebrate, we hosted a Reunion and 20th Anniversary party at Brandeis during the NSGC Annual Education Conference to toast our wonderful students and alums and the amazing faculty who taught them over these many years.

This year brings a big change to the Brandeis GC Program: Beth Rosen Sheidley, the Program's Co-Director of Research and Professional Development, is stepping down after 8 years. Beth was a member of the inaugural class of the Brandeis Program and it's been a treat to work with her and learn from her.

Beth leaves us to become a full-time Genetic Counselor at Boston Children's Hospital where she serves as Program Manager for the Epilepsy Genetics Program in the Department of Neurology. Beth sees families for genetic counseling in the Epilepsy Genetics Clinic, conducts research focused on epilepsy genetics, and serves on BCH's BEST committee to review lab utilization practices.

For 2013-2014, Beth is continuing to oversee our students' master's thesis research but has handed over the reins for the community field placement class to Jody Kimber Foster (class of 2000). Jody is also a per diem genetic counselor at Brigham and Women's Hospital (see faculty page for more information). All of us are very excited to have Jody (re)join the program.

In addition to Jody, our current faculty include Gretchen Schneider, our Co-Director for Clinical Training, our medical director Joan Stoler, as well as David Rintell, Judy Jackson, Janet Rosenfield, Kate Kramer, Barbara Lerner, Alice Noble, Joe Cunningham and Rachel Woodruff. We are also very fortunate to have Missy Goldberg as our Program Administrator – she has been a part of the program since 1995 and our students, alumni and faculty all know what a valuable resource she is. Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the many talented genetic counselors who give generously of their time to supervise Brandeis students in their clinical internships and help guide their master's thesis research.

We welcome the changes that occur from year to year but our core priorities continue 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.

Brandeis alums work all over the U.S. and the world. The majority work in major urban centers across the country but several work in more exotic places like Alaska and Hawaii. We also have alumni working in Canada, England, Israel and Germany. Most of them are in clinical practice, but many of our more recent graduates work in non-clinical settings such as diagnostic laboratories and clinical genetics research groups.

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

Our students are a diverse group and we strongly encourage applicants from all walks of life to apply: those who might be making a career change; those who want to re-enter the work force 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 match and career for them. We hope to hear from you and welcome any questions you might have.

Gretchen Schneider, Co-director, Clinical Placements gretchen

I find it hard to believe that I have already completed my fifth year as Co-Director of Clinical Training for the Genetic Counseling Program here at Brandeis. At the same time, so much has happened both in our program and in the profession during that period, that it seems like much longer.

It is extremely satisfying to look back at the last 5 years and reflect on how this program has evolved to meet the ever-changing needs of our students. We settled into beautiful new space, which has given the students and faculty a real sense of community. We have made many improvements to our students' training including a case-based journal club, a student driven discussion of genetics issues in the news, a day in a DNA diagnostic laboratory, and a family history boot camp. We have also continued to expand our internship opportunities both in the greater Boston area and in other parts of the country to provide our students with the best hands-on training possible. Yet while the program is constantly changing, the values that it was founded on, a well-rounded learning experience with a strong counseling curriculum and a focus on the issues faced by individuals and families with disabilities, have remained intact.

Genetic counseling, as a profession, has also changed enormously during my time here at Brandeis. A new organization, the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling was formed to establish standards for genetic counseling education, and evaluate and accredit genetic counseling training programs. The American Board of Genetic Counseling has continued to adapt the certification exam schedule and will now be offering the exam twice a year while providing instant notification of results to test-takers and the conclusion of their exam. Licensure of genetic counselors has expanded to now include 14 states issuing licenses with an additional 4 having passed bills. Here in Massachusetts, we have just completed our second two-year renewal cycle and currently have 167 fully licensed genetic counselors. Finally, at the most recent NSGC Annual Education Conference, there were over 1700 attendees! As someone who remembers the first meeting years ago when the number of registrants reached 1000, this is perhaps the most obvious testament to the growth of our profession.

Nothing validates what we do here at Brandeis more than the accomplishments of our former students. Our newly trained genetic counselors represent our program well with poster and platform presentations at the yearly NSGC meeting and in the most recent certification exam cycle, our graduates achieved a 100% pass rate. Brandeis graduates work all over the world in many different job settings and contribute to our profession in numerous ways. Many of our clinical supervisors, who are helping to shape the future generations of genetic counselors, are Brandeis alumnae. In the increasingly large group of research genetic counselors here in Boston, there are also numerous graduates from our program. One of our graduates ran an incredible pre-conference symposium entitled "Reaching for Common Ground: Prenatal Genetic Counseling and Disability Equality" at the most recent NSGC meeting and another has been elected as president of the American Board of Genetic Counseling. We could not be more proud of the contributions our trainees are making to this amazing field.

This year, like many, will be a challenging one as we work to incorporate information about the new and constantly improving technologies available to our patients into the training for our students. It is difficult to keep up with the times, yet it is an important and necessary thing to do as we prepare our students to enter the genetic counseling profession. We will also say goodbye to Beth Rosen Sheidley who has stepped down as Co-Director of Research and Professional Development. Beth has been an incredible mentor to our students as well as a tremendous colleague and friend. The strength of our program's research component is a reflection of her hard work here, and her shoes will be very hard to fill. We continue to be dedicated though, to providing the very best educational experience for our students and look forward to bringing on new faculty members to share in this passion.

Please click here to learn more about our medical director and affiliated faculty.


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