Friday, September 15, 2017

Class of 2019: Looking Ahead

With a new semester off to a solid start, the class of 2019 has a lot to look forward to during their time in Pittsburgh.

Hail to Pitt! Many students are excited to start
their genetic counseling careers at Pitt.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to complete my graduate studies in such a diverse and interesting city like Pittsburgh. I cannot wait to learn more about professional genetic counseling, and to create life-long friendships with our classmates!” - Samantha Afonso

“The most surprising thing about moving to Pittsburgh is that you can park your car facing whichever way you want. I’m really excited to learn about genetic counseling and science! I’m so excited to learn about my classmates and create friendships” -Natasha Robin Berman

“I am looking forward to the many opportunities, in and out of the classroom, that I will have to observe and interact with fellow professionals in the field I am becoming part of. I am excited about rounding out my education with a better understanding of public health. Having never spent much time in Pgh, I’m also excited to explore the city’s vibrant performing arts scene (and food scene!) in my free time.” -Charlotte Skinner

“I am most excited to take classes that are tailored specifically to genetic counseling students, which will equip me with a foundation of knowledge directly applicable to my future career. I also look forward to observations and clinical rotations throughout the city in Pittsburgh’s established, reputable hospitals!” -Rebecca Clark

Students are excited to get back into the classroom to add
skills to their GC toolbox.

“I am excited to be a part of a program with a wealth of knowledge and opportunities and to be in classes directly applicable to the career I am passionate about. I look forward to adventuring Pittsburgh and experiencing all the seasons (the Texan in me might freeze this winter, though).” - Megan Hoenig

“I can’t wait to join such an enthusiastic group of classmates and future colleagues. I’m excited to learn from the unique experiences that brought all us to this common path and to support each other as we go along it. As a California native, I’m also hoping I can learn a few techniques from some of them for surviving the winter.” - Caitlin Russell

“I’m looking forward to experiencing all that Pittsburgh has to offer over the next two years! There are so many museums, restaurants, galleries, hiking trails, and other exciting things to do in the city. Moving to Pittsburgh, I was surprised by how friendly everyone is here; it’s not uncommon to find yourself learning the life story of the person sitting next to you on the bus! I’m also excited to be able to expand my knowledge of Public Health Genetics during my time here at Pitt and hope to use that knowledge in the future to help improve a community.” -Meghan Cunningham

Some of our students will have to learn how to bundle up in
colder temperatures in order to survive Pittsburgh winters!
“I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can about genetics and genetic diseases so that I can help patients in my rotations, and later, in my career. I’m also excited to get to know my classmates as we share the next 2 years together!” - Maggie Hufton

“I am excited to continue my education at my favorite school (Hail to Pitt!) by learning more about genetics than I ever thought possible, and to continue exploring all that Pittsburgh has to offer over the next two years with new friends and colleagues.” - Rachel Sutton

“The most surprising thing about moving to Pittsburgh was finding out that I needed a bigger umbrella and rainboots! I’m excited to be part of a dynamic university as I learn more about genetic counseling, public health, and science. I’m eager to learn and develop skills that will last me a lifetime and maybe a little bit of that Pittsburghese (Hey, yinz).” - Alyssa Azevedo

Friday, September 1, 2017

Genetic Testing as Séance

     When most of us think about our health, we think of things like blood pressure which can have serious implications for our own health, but may not mean much to our relatives. Most likely, you haven’t given much thought to your genetics, unless you have a reason to. For most of the medical
There is no crystal ball that can tell clinicians what to do with
genetic test results in the event that their patient passes away
and their family members want information.
community, your genetic information is part of your protected medical information. This means that physicians follow the same rules to protect your genetic information as they do for your other health information. But, there is something different about genetic information. It can have implications for your biological relatives, not just you. Many people will decide to allow relatives to be notified of any genetic conditions they are diagnosed with, and usually this process works well. A problem can occur when genetic testing doesn’t provide an immediate answer, and the patient passes away before it can. When this happens, clinicians are left to grapple with the conflicts between legal authority and clinical relevance. On one side are those with the legal authority to receive this protected medical information about the deceased and on the other side are the biological relatives who that information may have clinical relevance for, but may not have legal authority to receive it. There is no clear guidance on what a clinician is to do with information they gain about a deceased patient’s genetic testing. My study, “Disclosure of Reclassified Variant of Uncertain Significant (VUS) Results to Biological Relatives of Deceased Patients: Current Practices”, has the goal of finding out what clinicians are currently doing with that information. I am asking genetics professionals across the country what they currently do and what they think should be done when a clinician is notified of new information regarding the genetics of a deceased patient. The long-term goal of my study is to contribute to policy development that will guide clinicians through this complex situation. This is a complicated problem though, and the first step is going to be finding out what is happening now, to help us understand where we need to be going in the future. In taking on this project, I have learned a great deal about developing a research project, survey development, collaboration, policy, and genetics.
     Our bodies carry two copies of every gene, we get one from our mother and one from our father. Genetic testing is indicated for individuals and families with conditions known or suspected to have a
DNA helps to make us who we are and is part of our protected
health information.
genetic cause. Conditions for which genetic testing is available exist in many medical fields, including oncology, pediatrics, prenatal care, cardiology, and hematology among others, and can impact patients at any age. Genetic testing can be performed on single genes, multiple genes (gene panels), whole exome (the part of our DNA which is used to make proteins), or whole genome (all our DNA). The type of testing performed depends on the symptoms of the patient, the amount of information desired, and the scope of genetic factors involved for the condition of concern. If a genetic condition is identified, it may modify medical management of the patient such as screening methods and frequency as well as surgical and medication options that may become available. However, not all genetic variants will impact medical care. Variants identified through genetic testing fall into three main categories: pathogenic variants, benign variants, and variants of uncertain significance (VUS). A pathogenic variant is known to be associated with a condition, a benign variant does not impact our health, and a VUS is a genetic change which has unclear implications.
     In 2015, the American College of Medical Genetics put forth guidelines for classifying genetic variants into five different classifications: pathogenic, likely pathogenic, of uncertain significance, likely benign, or benign. These guidelines recommend using published literature, computational predictive programs, family studies, and bioinformatics resources to determine which classification is most appropriate for a specific variant. Information from these sources is combined to assess the variant’s impact on health and determine its classification. If available evidence is insufficient for a variant to be classified as pathogenic, likely pathogenic, benign or likely benign, ACMG recommends classifying the variant as being of uncertain significance until available evidence becomes sufficient to reclassify the variant. Clinicians may use these general guidelines to classify genetic variants, but the details of the process vary. A VUS can be identified in anyone who gets genetic testing. VUS results are not used in medical care, but are recorded by the laboratory that performed the testing until enough information is available to reclassify the variant. However, the reclassification process may take years and some patients will pass away before reclassification of their VUS occurs. When a VUS result is reclassified by a laboratory, many will send out an updated report with relevant information about the variant to the ordering physician. Even after the patient has passed away, the reclassified results may still be of clinical value to surviving biological relatives. Biological relatives of the deceased patient have a certain probability or chance of having the same variant as the patient, depending on how closely they are related. Reclassification of a VUS to a pathogenic variant indicates that biological relatives of the deceased patient may have increased risks to carry the same variant, and associated disease risks. Conversely, a reclassification of a VUS to a benign variant can help eliminate the anxiety associated with an uncertain result.
     There are currently no guidelines in place for when and how clinicians should contact biological relatives of a deceased patient to inform them of a reclassified VUS result. However, this issue will
Determining what to do with genetic test results of someone
that has passed away may have implications for other family
become increasingly important as genetic testing becomes more common and testing volume increases. A change in clinical testing practices, from single gene tests to broader tests that look at multiple genes, will likely increase the frequency of VUS findings as well. In general, increasing the number of genes being tested increases the likelihood of discovering a VUS. Current policies which do address the issue of genetic information disclosure after the death of the patient typically treat genetic information as medical information. In Pennsylvania, this means that only the executor of the estate has legal authority to receive the information once the patient has passed away. Clinicians who receive a VUS reclassification for a deceased patient may struggle with who has legal authority vs. clinical relevance to receive that information. Guidance on this issue is minimal, and clinicians may use a wide variety of methods to identify the most appropriate person to receive the reclassified result. Clinicians may reach out to the last known contacts for the deceased, the spouse of the deceased, the hospital’s medical records department, etc. in order to identify who can receive the reclassified VUS results. Other physicians may not attempt contact at all, since the patient is deceased. Because of the lack of guidance and the growing relevance to clinical genetics, it is becoming increasingly important to establish guidelines which best serve the patients, their families, and the clinicians involved in this process.
     My study will distribute a questionnaire to about eight-thousand genetics professionals across the
While it may be a lot of work, researching these types of
questions go into providing better genetics care for the
US and ask what they have done when they encountered this situation. A reclassified VUS in a deceased patient is not something that occurs every day though, and I will also be asking for opinions on what should be done in these situations. Data will be reported according to demographic information such as years of practice and current role of the responder. I’ll also compare responses and look for factors which may be affecting those responses. Data collected though this survey will be reported in my thesis project and hopefully published as a research article in a peer-reviewed journal to promote work on this issue and raise awareness in the genetics community.
     For me, the process of developing a study from start to finish has been very rewarding. I am fortunate to work with some very experienced mentors who have provided a great deal of insight into the construction, distribution, interpretation, and reporting processes involved in this study. Developing a survey from scratch has been the most interesting component so far. I learned a great deal about the process of developing a survey and the work that goes into it. I have also worked with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to ensure the privacy and well-being of research participants is protected and coordinated distribution of the survey with national organizations. It is no surprise that I have learned a great deal in this process. I have a long way to go before this project is completed, so I know I will learn a lot more. I have enjoyed working with my mentors and am excited about the skills I am developing. I now look forward to research opportunities after graduation, and hope to continue working on this issue to reach the end goal of policy development.

-- Seth Lascurain, Class of 2018

Friday, August 18, 2017

Reapplication: A Worthy Challenge

     There is a distressing feeling that accompanies finding out you have not been accepted to any genetic counseling programs. For months, you have agonized over every letter of your personal statement, typed and retyped answers to application questions, entered the basic details of your life on form after form, and paid fees in hopes of receiving an interview. This does not even account for the hours of shadowing, volunteering, working, studying, and soul searching that go into preparing for the application process.
Remember, Hercules may have suffered some defeats, but
he still persisted, and so can you!
     Then, as days stretch into weeks after hitting that scary “submit” button, you begin to receive messages from programs either telling you, “thanks, but no thanks,” or, “please, do come join us for an interview.” The interview process itself is its own Herculean labor. At the end of each one your jaw is sore from smiling, your mouth is dry from conversation, and your eyes are heavy from lack of sleep. Sometimes you leave feeling completely satisfied with your performance. Sometimes you nitpick the way you answered that last question when you were starting to feel tired.
     The next part is the long wait for Match Day. Some days you feel confident that you will be telling your family members all about class and clinic in a few short months. Other days you think that the chances of getting in are a million to one. The mind games seem worse when you need to re-explain that when you say you will find out April 25, you mean you will find out April 25, not next week, not tomorrow, not today. And yes, that is plenty of time to find an apartment. You are not the first to do it, nor will you be the last.
     After all of this work, to find out you did not make the cut feels devastating. But is it all for naught?
     The short answer is no. The long answer is a little more involved.
     Reapplying to a program that did not accept you the previous year does not “look bad.” If anything, it shows that you are willing to pause, reflect, and improve upon yourself, all qualities vital to a good genetic counselor. There are many students who do not make it in on the first try. From my experience, the unintentional gap year was a positive one, and getting accepted the second time
The path to success may not always be clear, so sometimes
we must forge our own way.
around made it all the sweeter.
     Before you begin reapplication, set aside time to feel sad. Spending months on a project that does not come to fruition is tough, and it is okay to acknowledge that.
     The next step on your journey is answering this question: Is genetic counseling right for me? Think about what you have learned throughout the application process and whether you can pursue it again. If your answer is yes, reach out to programs for pointers on how to improve your application. The most helpful question I was asked during this time is, “What is your plan for the next year?” Program directors like hearing your ideas because it shows you take initiative and that you care about the profession.
     Then, of course, you need to execute your plan. For everyone, this will look a little different, but here are some general pointers:
  1. Learn everything you can about genetic counseling. One way to do this is shadow more. Reading is also very helpful. Some personal favorites are The DNA Exchange and Genome Magazine – both online, both free. NSGC has some great, free webinars too! The Journal of Genetic Counseling and Genetics in Medicine are both great resources that can be accessed through many university libraries. Many states also have genetic counseling associations with annual conferences you can attend, which is definitely something to include on your resume.
  2. Update your personal statement to reflect changes you made since the previous cycle. You want to showcase the hard work you have put in for any programs viewing your application again. Make sure those writing your letters of recommendation receive an update on your additional accomplishments as well should some of them be the same people.
  3. Practice interview questions. Being able to answer questions about your strengths, weaknesses, times you encountered conflict, etc., should become second nature. Having some stock answers you can build upon will help you with confidence on interview day.
  4. Be open to new experiences. While learning a new skill or taking a trip may seem completely unrelated to the application process, everything builds upon who you are as a person. You never know what you may be able to relate back to genetic counseling, and it is more material to work with during interviews.
  5. Be confident. Failing to get in once does not mean you are any less capable of becoming a genetic counselor. It simply means that you were not as well prepared as someone else. Remember: you can – and will – take steps to remedy that.
     To be honest, reapplying is hard. It is a sense of déjà vu that you are simultaneously more and less comfortable with. I came to deeply appreciate the reapplication process. Ultimately, it was a time for me to improve upon not just my application, but myself. And ultimately, the experiences I had during my unintentional gap year will make me a more capable genetic counselor. So, I challenge those of you reapplying to rise to the occasion and make this your best year yet. Good luck!

--Meg Hager, Class of 2018

Friday, August 4, 2017

Experiences of Working With Sickle Cell

For my hourly work position, I have the pleasure of working in two different, yet collaborative settings.  I am a student worker for the Pediatric Sickle Cell Department at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, as well as a program assistant at Children’s Sickle Cell Foundation, Inc. (CSCF,Inc.) Working in a dual capacity allows me to learn about sickle cell disease in a clinical setting, as well as from a community advocacy standpoint.  Both perspectives have made for a valuable experience with regards to genetic counseling during my first year.  
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
In the clinical setting, I have had the opportunity to shadow the pediatric sickle cell team members during their clinic days. I have learned about the clinical management of sickle cell disease and other hemoglobinopathies. The department is responsible for sending out letters for positive newborn screen results for sickle cell trait. This is one of my primary tasks along with managing the clinic’s sickle cell database, and keeping our patients’ clinic visits, medications and referrals up to date. This summer, I had the opportunity to provide pre-test counseling for University of Pittsburgh student athletes for the mandatory NCAA sickle cell trait testing. My supervisor and mentor is Dr. Cheryl Hillery.  She is enthusiastic and open to my participation in any and all clinic activities.  She is currently guiding the development of my thesis topic, which focuses on the medical transition from pediatric to adult care for young adults with sickle cell.  This transition occurs between the ages of 18 and 22 and is often a busy and challenging time for this age group. Having a potentially life-threatening, chronic illness to manage can be a source of anxiety for these teens and young adults and it can be intimidating to meet and interact with a new set of care providers in the adult setting.  
In addition to working in the clinic, I typically work one day a week assisting the Program Director, Heather Tucker, with providing programs for children and adults with sickle cell disease through Children’s Sickle Cell Foundation, Inc., a non-profit, community-based organization in Pittsburgh. We work as a team to plan and execute programs and activities for children with sickle
An image depicting normal and sickle-shaped red blood
cells. Photo from the Mayo Clinic.
cell disease and their families. Our most recent event was the annual Sickle Cell Fun Day at Kennywood amusement park.  Earlier this summer, we spent the day with our families, provided a catered lunch for the families along with fun activities like bingo and raffles for those who were not as interested in going on amusement rides.  Our Saturday SMASH Sickle Cell Wellness Program, (SMASH stands for Stay Motivated, Active, Smart and Healthy) is growing steadily.  One activity we made available to families during the summer months was the Learn2Swim program that provides children and their families access to swimming in a heated pool(This is important for individuals with sickle cell disease; exposure to cold water can trigger a sickle cell crisis.).  During the school year, the focus is on education and coping along with various physical activities. Year round, we provide free tickets to plays, sporting events and museums around the city and all of these programs are open to children with sickle cell disease and their families, providing much needed family time.  I enjoy meeting the families and getting to know them. In this role, I am also able to learn administrative skills by managing our Facebook and Twitter pages and by designing the monthly calendar that is sent to families who are part of our community.
Through interacting with the staff and families of CSCF, Inc. I have learned how sickle cell disease affects kids and adults from a personal standpoint. I get to hear their stories and work for an organization that works to provide them the resources they need in order to succeed and continue “Living Well with Sickle Cell®.”

-- Emily Mazzei, Class of 2018

Friday, July 21, 2017

Advice to Soon-To-Be GC Students

Starting a genetic counseling program can seem a little scary, but it's also a new opportunity to grow and make new friends. The Class of 2018 has some advice for incoming first years:

There’s a lot of stuff going on in graduate school between class, rotations, writing your thesis and taking care of yourself. I would definitely say invest in a good planner to keep yourself organized during the hectic times that will inevitably pop up. - Meg Hager

Don't forget to set aside time to relax.
I recommend setting some time aside each week for grocery shopping and meal prepping to ensure you’re well fed, even on the weeks when you have exams, assignments due for rotations, or deadlines at work. Eating right is an important part of self care! - Emily Spoth

Take out your phone right now and download the apps Transit and Busgazer to help you track the buses in Pittsburgh. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself. Graduate school is hard. It’s supposed to be. But it’s also rewarding and, on occasion, fun. - Emily Mazzei

Don’t forget to enjoy the process! Graduate school, especially genetic counseling programs, can be hectic and busy at times, but it’s also an amazing time to connect with 11 other people who are experiencing some of exact same things that you are. Take a little bit of time off to explore Pittsburgh, try new restaurants or just nerd-out with your classmates on all things science! - Joya Petersen

Buy an umbrella you can keep in your bag at all times!  You will be glad you have it. - Seth Lascurain

The best thing I was told when I was going into my first year is that grad school is what you make of it. There are plenty of opportunities out there, but it is up to you to take advantage of them, so don’t be afraid to get involved and explore areas that excite you. - Julia Stone
Keeping yourself organized can be helpful during grad school.
Feel out your professors before you pass this on, but remember that your grades matter much less than what you are getting out of the experience to become a successful and thriving genetic counselor (and person overall). If you focus on doing things that help with that end goal, prioritizing can become a bit easier as not every assignment or test is going to carry the same weight. You also can’t possibly give 100% of yourself to every class, every assignment, every extracurricular opportunity, every job responsibility, and every social outing. It’s okay, and often necessary and encouraged, to say no at reasonable times! - Jenni Peck

Take advantage of Robin and Andrea’s open door policy- they really are such a wonderful resource throughout your time in the program (as well as after you graduate)! - Claire Leifeste

It is very helpful to make a schedule and to try to stick to it, but don’t beat yourself up or panic if you fall behind. Everything gets finished eventually! Also, taking breaks to allow yourself to regroup is an absolute necessity! You always think more clearly and interact more effectively with patients if you give your brain the break that it needs. - Jackie Amurgis

Have a space you go to regularly, whether it’s a room in your apartment, a friend’s place, a coffee shop, anywhere, where you do absolutely nothing school-related. Being able to have a place you can totally remove yourself from school, work, or rotations helps with making everything less overwhelming and keeps it exciting. - Julia Verbiar

-- The Class of 2018

Friday, July 7, 2017

Biting into Research: Research Experience with Craniofacial and Dental Genetics

Like some of the genetic counseling students from years past, I am a graduate student worker at the Center for Craniofacial and DentalGenetics (CCDG), part of the School of Dental Medicine here at Pitt. My first experience with the CCDG was through the Summer Institute for Training in Biostatistics, when I was able to work with data from the first cohort study of the Center for Oral Health Research in Appalachia (COHRA1). Currently, I am a research assistant for the second cohort of the study, Factors Contributing to Oral Health Disparities in Appalachia(COHRA2). The goal of these studies is to examine the genetic, environmental, behavioral, and microbial components of the disproportionately increasing rate of dental caries, or cavities, in children in Appalachia, a region in the eastern United States spanning from western New York to northern Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. We are looking specifically at children in Northern Appalachia, from western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, as they demonstrate a high level of poor oral health with elevated rates of caries early in life.
A map depicting the Appalachian region of the United States.

My job involves working with a team of other research assistants and dental hygienists to perform study visits and maintain contact with the research participants. Collaborators at West Virginia University also carry out these visits, with West Virginia being the only state entirely within the Appalachian region. Female participants were able to enroll when they were in their first or second trimester of pregnancy and we are now following the mother and baby pairs up to the baby’s 6th birthday, with visits at specific times throughout the years.  The visits involve collecting saliva and other oral samples from the mothers and babies enrolled in the study for DNA and microbial environment analysis. We also document the child’s growth and survey behavioral, environmental, psychosocial, and socioeconomic factors of the mothers, both at the visits and with short and long phone interviews at other times of the year. Other aspects of my position involve helping with general office duties and processing the samples received at both sites for subsequent analysis.

Center for Craniofacial & Dental Genetics logo.
A significant benefit of my position is the wealth and breadth of data available from which I can develop my thesis project, which is allowing me to make it a project I really enjoy. I have a strong interest in cardiovascular health, so I am currently looking into developing a thesis project that examines the possible genetic link between heart disease, hypertension, and periodontitis. Research has shown that there may be a similar underlying inflammation process in these diseases and, through CCDG-lead studies and collaborations throughout the years, there is extensive data I can use to further study this connection.

Although I was not sure how relevant it would be when I began, this position has helped me cultivate my genetic counseling skills. Conducting the study visits has facilitated my comfort with patient interaction and adapting to changing situations, as patients and sessions can be unpredictable, just like the toddlers we see. Through the phone interviews we conduct with the mothers to track the diets and general health of their babies, I have also developed my ability to go through series of seemingly random questions in a targeted manner to stay on topic, like is necessary when collecting personal and family medical histories.

For these reasons, and many more, I have really appreciated the experiences and opportunities I have had while at the CCDG and am excited to continue working here through the rest of my time at Pitt!

-- Julia Verbiar, Class of 2018

Friday, June 23, 2017

Optional Rotation: Cambridge, England

For my optional clinical rotation, I had the unique opportunity to spend four weeks in the United Kingdom.  Since I am dual degree student also pursing an MPH in Public Health Genetics, my main goal for this rotation was to observe the differences between UK and US genetics services.  My rotation took place in Addenbrooke’s Hospital, a teaching hospital that is part of the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) and is affiliated with the University of Cambridge.  The clinical genetics department at Addenbrooke’s is made up of 10 genetic counselors and 11 clinical geneticists with varying specialties and professional interests. 

Addenbrooke's Hospital of Cambridge gave one Pitt student
the opportunity for an optional rotation.
During my four-week rotation, I had the opportunity to observe and participate in patient encounters across a number of genetic specialties such as prenatal, pediatrics, and cancer.  For the most part, the genetic counseling sessions are handled in the same manner as they are in the US.  They contract with their patients the same way that we do, provide the same basic genetics information, and offer emotional support to patients and their family members.  The greatest difference, I found, was in the type of genetic tests and screenings that were offered to patients.

In the US, if a patient meets clinical criteria for genetic testing, the type of test offered, the testing laboratory selected, and subsequent health screenings recommended often depends on the patient’s insurance.  In the UK however, the vast majority of patients utilize the NHS, a single-payer system, which somewhat streamlines the genetic testing process.  However, because the NHS provides healthcare to so many people, the challenge of conserving resources is very real.  The clinical criteria for genetic testing and health screenings in the UK are stricter than they are in the US, and there is a more formalized process for getting an appointment with a geneticist or genetic counselor.  After having spent time in two very different healthcare systems, I am now more aware of the variety of medical services in the US and have gained an appreciation for the straightforward nature of the NHS.
An important historical message about the discovery of DNA
from a local pub in Cambridge.

In addition to participating in genetic counseling appointments, I also had the chance to observe a number of other genetics-related services.  I got to spend a day in the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) clinic, working with patients living with this syndrome and helping to coordinate their other specialist appointments.  I spent another day sitting in with men who had a BRCA2 positive test result who were participating in a prospective prostate cancer research study.  I also had the opportunity to observe mammograms and colonoscopy procedures.  These experiences allowed me to appreciate the downstream impact of genetic services on patients, doctors, and research.

Although my rotation kept me quite busy, I was able to set aside some time on the weekends to explore Cambridge and other parts of the UK.  Much of Watson and Crick’s contributions to the discovery of DNA happened just down the road at the University of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, and it was exciting to feel a little closer to that important history.

My optional rotation in Cambridge was an amazing way to round out my clinical training.  Not only was I able to utilize the skills that I had honed up until that point, I also got to learn a great deal about the applications of genetics to other areas of medicine and its impact on public health.

-- Leslie Walsh, Class of 2017