Friday, December 14, 2018

Leadership Seminar: Ellen Matloff

Each year, the Pitt GC students invite a leader in the genetic counseling field to speak with current students and give a seminar that addresses leadership for the department. This year, the class of 2019 invited Ellen Matloff, MS. Ellen has a number of roles within the field of genetic counseling, including writer, advocate, and entrepreneur. Some of our students shared their thoughts after Ellen’s visit.

I really enjoyed hearing from Ellen Matloff during her recent visit to Pitt! She was very candid about her experiences, from graduate school to starting her own company, and everything in between. Her discussion during breakfast with the students and her seminar presentation were insightful. She provided some excellent wisdom and words of encouragement about how to recognize our own strengths and self-worth as (future) genetic counselors, how to use these strengths to excel in a career that we can be proud of, and how we can help lead the charge towards the future of genetics and healthcare. In a field that’s constantly changing, Ellen is a true example of how to embrace the changes, while still staying true to yourself. -Alyson Evans

Ellen’s talk was very inspiring to witness.  She emphasized the importance of standing up for myself as a genetic counselor and to know my worth to any hospital, lab, or company I decide to work for in the future.  Through her story, Ellen showed that the road to “success” isn’t always a straight path, but if you work hard and aren’t afraid to take risks, you can get where you want to be.  She made me even more excited to join a field of strong, accomplished individuals. -Christine Drogan

I am definitely going to be more active on Twitter™ now. Ellen encouraged us to support our peers and advocate for our field in a world dominated by social media. Her energy and wisdom regarding business, self-worth, and adaptation has truly inspired me to take a more focused look at myself. I can now better determine what I need from my future career and I now have the tools to meet those needs. In Ellen’s words, “Here’s your machete. I’ll see you in the woods.” -Andrew Fazenbaker

The opportunity to meet Ellen was definitely an unforgettable one! She is an inspirational woman and genetic counselor and her willingness to openly share her experiences was quite meaningful for us as students. She is honest about the fact that not every step of the way will be without challenges, but showed that remaining strong and standing up for what you believe in will pay off. -Stephanie Betts

Ellen Matloff and Pitt GC classes of 2019 and 2020

Ellen’s talk and our breakfast with her were very inspirational. I was particularly impressed by her role as a plaintiff in the court case to determine whether Myriad was allowed to patent the BRCA genes. It seems obvious that patenting of genes should not be permitted, but this was not always the common opinion in the genetics community. Ellen’s determination to stand up for what she knew was right, despite pushback from colleagues, is something that will stick with me as I begin my career. -Claire McDonald

Having the opportunity to meet Ellen and hear about her journey as a genetic counselor was quite refreshing. She spoke honestly and candidly about her experiences, from serving as a plaintiff on the Myriad BRCA patent case to starting her own business helping patients understand and stay updated on their genetic test results. She has accomplished many things throughout her career and made sure we heard the trials and tribulations she conquered. She empowered us to stand up for ourselves as genetics professionals, to know our self-worth, and to not be afraid to pave new paths. Ellen’s talk has made me even more excited to join this incredible field! -Rachel Sutton

First and foremost, thank you to Ellen for accepting our invitation to speak. As second-year students entering our final semester, we are really in the thick of our degrees. Being able to have a private breakfast with our classmates and Ellen was wonderful. Her candor and story-telling ability was greatly appreciated by everyone in attendance. She was a breath of fresh air. By speaking honestly about her experiences in the field and showing genuine interest in our experiences, she made us feel welcome. She demonstrated that genetic counselors need not be fixed in a singular niche. Our reach is robust, and we now have the invitation to crash whatever party we need to! -Samantha Afonso

It was truly a pleasure to have had the opportunity to listen to Ellen speak. She is not only an inspirational figure for genetic counselors, but also for anyone looking to step outside the box and forge a new path despite the odds. It was particularly inspiring to hear about how she took a stand for herself while working at her previous institution, creating a voice for herself and genetic counselors alike. Her strength and persistence is truly something to be admired not only as a woman but as a genetic counselor and person. Thank you so much Ellen! -Ashley Lahr

It was incredible to have the opportunity to have breakfast and a seminar with Ellen Matloff. She is truly a trailblazer in the genetic counseling community. She did not sacrifice her values, even when she had an unpopular opinion. She fought for what she believed in and what was right until she could see it through...and won! I am inspired by her journey and will carry it with me into the challenges I will face as a genetic counselor in a rapidly-changing field. She was also such a positive and encouraging person, and I am so grateful she was willing to spend the day with us! -Rebecca Clark

It was such a great experience to have Ellen speak. She is someone that I’ve been following on social media and have been a big fan of her writing and so to have her come speak was a real treat. I found her personal journey to be inspiring and it really made me think of all the ways that I could make a positive impact on the world while utilizing the skills that I’ve gained in a genetic counseling program. What a wonderful example of how to really use all the skills we have, and realize some outside of the traditional realm of genetic counseling. I’ve even been inspired to put my voice out there when people inquire about genetics! -Natasha Robin Berman

I greatly enjoyed talking with Ellen and hearing her speak. Her experience of being a plaintiff on a pivotal supreme court case and creating a business to fill in the gaps of genetic counseling services was such an inspiration to me. Her words challenged us to go beyond the traditional scope of genetic counseling and advocate for our field. As I am approaching graduation, Ellen is someone who I aspire to embody as I grow as a genetic counselor. -Megan Hoenig

Friday, November 30, 2018

Class of 2020: Looking Ahead

The class of 2020 is thrilled to be in Pittsburgh as students in the Pitt GC Program! In the following, we share the things that excite us about living in Pittsburgh and starting the Program:

"One thing I’m excited to experience while living in Pittsburgh is all of the great food!  As for the genetic counseling program, I am excited to learn more about how to talk with patients about how genetics has changed their day to day life and what I can do as a provider to help and advocate for them." -Christine Drogan

"I can’t wait to try all of the amazing food in Pittsburgh, and I’m thrilled to live in a city where I can get by without a car. As for the program, I’m so excited to finally train to pursue the career I’ve been working towards since high school! I’m also excited to be in the dual degree program; there are only two schools in the country where you can get an MPH in public health genetics, and I think training in public health genetics will be a huge asset as I move forward in my career." -Claire McDonald

The class of 2020 celebrates GC Awareness Day
"I’m so excited to continue exploring Pittsburgh’s many things to do -- between museums, sports, hiking, theater, Kennywood, and Pierogi fest, there are many things on my 'Must Try' list! The thing that excites me most about starting in the Pitt GC program is being able to learn from experienced genetic counselors and Pitt Public Health faculty.  I can’t wait to build my skill set and enter the workforce as a genetic counselor and public health professional with the experience I am gaining with these mentors and their patients." -Lauren Winter 

"I’m originally from Southern California, so even though I’ve been in Pittsburgh for a year, I’m still excited about seasons! Pittsburgh has a lot of things to do, and many of these things change depending on the season. I can’t wait for the snow so I can try tubing for the first time. As far as the program goes, it’s hard to come up with one thing. I’m looking forward to engaging with people affected by the conditions we study. It’s important that we understand the perspectives of the people we’re serving and listen to what is important to patients. No one is a better expert on how these conditions affect daily life than the people living with these conditions, and I think we’re really lucky that people are willing to share their experiences with us." -Vickie Bacon

"I’m going on my seventh year living here and haven’t gone to the zoo yet, so I’m looking forward to possibly doing that this year. I’m very excited for the clinical rotation portion of the program because it will allow me to see a broader variety of patients, as my current experience is mostly with cancer, prenatal, and general adult patients. Pediatrics, cardiology, primary care, and neurology are only some of the additional clinic sites that I am looking forward to working in." -Andrew Fazenbaker

"I’m excited to be back in school and can’t wait to learn everything I can about genetic counseling and being a resource and advocate for patients navigating complex situations. However, grad school can’t be all work and no fun, so I’m looking forward to exploring and enjoying all there is to do in Pittsburgh!" -Alyson Evans

Members of the class of 2020 at a Penguins game
"I’m excited to check out all the local sports teams: Panthers, Pirates, Penguins, and Steelers! I’m also excited to be around so many people who are passionate and enthusiastic about genetics. Yay science!" -Rose Venier

"I’m excited to be back in Pittsburgh to be close to family and experience all of the amazing changes that the city has undergone since I was growing up. I’m excited that the GC program will give me the opportunity to learn and grow with amazing classmates, faculty, and mentors by my side!" -Stephanie Betts

"I am excited to be living in a new city and can’t wait to go to a Penguins game! As for the GC program, I am excited for all of the different clinical rotation opportunities and finding the specialty I want to work in!" -Sarah McGee

"Since the state I grew up in does not have a professional hockey team, I never had the chance to attend a game, so I am definitely most excited to go to a Penguins game this season! As for the Pitt GC program, I am looking forward to our clinical rotations starting in the summer-especially since Pittsburgh’s health care systems offer the opportunity of various specialty rotations." -Caroline Bong

"Having grown up here in Pittsburgh, I am super excited to be spending my graduate time here. I am delighted to be living 'dahntahn' and continue exploring all the gems that Pittsburgh has to offer. One thing I am excited for about starting the GC program here at Pitt is diving in to the clinical rotations during the summer. I work in a pediatric setting so I am looking forward to exploring other areas of genetic counseling practice." -Ashley Lahr

Class of 2020 and friends celebrate Friendsgiving!

Friday, November 9, 2018

From Undergrad to Grad (Part 4)

In the final contribution of our fall blog series we ask students who have recently graduated from undergrad to share some sage advice for individuals applying to genetic counseling programs:

This week we asked:
Any recommendations for surviving grad school?

Make sure you have people in your life who will keep you in check and give you perspective!

Whenever you focus on the big picture, all the hard work is worth it!

Prioritize! There is always something due, so it is important to figure out the best way for you to balance all of your responsibilities. This includes taking time for yourself and allowing yourself to do something you enjoy every now and then!

My two recommendations would be (1) self-care and (2) staying organized.

Self-care is super important-- don’t forget to schedule time for yourself, whether you go to the gym or watch your favorite TV show every week, take care of yourself!

Staying organized is also really important.

I can say that I pride myself in how organized my email is (I have a folder for just about every aspect of grad school, from classes to interesting articles to read). It may seem insignificant, but it really helps! 

Friday, October 26, 2018

From Undergrad to Grad (Part 3)

This week we continue our fall series, asking current students who came to graduate school right after they finished their undergraduate experience about their advice for others who may be applying soon.  This week the question we asked was:

How has it felt to transition from undergrad to graduate school?

I felt like the transition was smooth, especially at Pitt. Because of Pitt’s confidence-building curriculum, the first year is primarily coursework and classes.

I was very much in my comfort zone, and a lot of my study skills from undergrad came in handy!

Having coursework made it feel similar to undergrad, but there is much more to balance and the courses are more challenging.

While it is challenging, there are many people available to help guide and support you during this period of transition.

For me, the transition was really smooth. Having just graduated from Pitt for undergrad, I was very familiar with the campus and Pitt in general, so that was one less thing to adjust to when starting classes in the fall.

I knew what worked best for me in regards to taking notes and studying, which definitely was helpful!

The classes are challenging and require more independent learning than I was used to previously, but having that fresh out of school crutch helped facilitate that transition.