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

Friday, June 9, 2017

Summer Plans for the Class of 2018

This summer, our second-year students are not only working hard in their clinical rotations, but they’re also taking time to experience more of Pittsburgh!

When I’m not working at improving my skills as a Genetic Counselor at my rotations, I plan on enjoying the running trails at Schenley Park, trying some new restaurants, and -above all else- getting some wonderful iced tea from Gryphon’s and Bantha! -Meg Hager
Enjoying some tea while working at Bantha
Tea Bar in Bloomfield.

A few of us have decided to take on the Tough Mudder this fall! This summer I will be training for that. -Seth Lascurain

I have been slowly working my way through a list of bakeries, cafes and restaurants in Pittsburgh that I’d like to try. I’ve also been seeing a lot of movies at Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville, which has a new movie theme each week. -Emily Mazzei

I am taking advantage of every farmers market and food truck event I can get my hands on this summer! Pittsburgh has some sort of fun food event going on every weekend, and I am making an effort to experience as many of them as possible. -Julia Stone

This summer I am going to take advantage of the warm weather and do one of my favorite things: go to a Pirates game and enjoy the view of North Shore! -Joya Petersen

One of my favorite summer activities in Pittsburgh is talking walks around the many beautiful parks and petting all of the cute dogs! I also enjoy biking on the trails that run along the rivers. -Jackie Amurgis

A shot of Pittsburgh from the Three Rivers Heritage Trail on
a cloudy, summer day.
Summer weekends are for camping and hiking! I’m looking forward to continuing exploring the state parks in the area. I got started over Memorial Day weekend with Fernwood State Forest (which is actually in Ohio!) and Raccoon Creek State Forest in PA. -Emily Spoth

In addition to enjoying the change of scenery from classes to clinical rotations, I am going to get back into running outdoors; enjoy some cafes around Pittsburgh that I have yet to try; attend some summer festivals and street fairs; and despite the humidity, still be relieved about the summer temperature differences between my Arizona home and my Pittsburgh home. -Jenni Peck

Along the lines of some of my classmates, this summer, my goals are to improve my cooking skills and my 5k time! I am working on trying out a new recipe every week, using ingredients from the farmers markets around the city, and running at least one race each month, finishing in front of a faster pacer each time. -Julia Verbiar

My summer bucket list includes going to a Pirates game, visiting a lot of parks, and hopefully making it out to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. We are also continuing our second year’s tradition of going to a different happy hour every Thursday after class! -Claire Leifeste

I’m spending as much time as possible finding nice places to read outside, cooking with fresh farmer’s market foods, and checking out fun festivals! My mom, sister, and I went to Mattress Factory art museum, Randyland, and the Cathedral of Learning over Memorial Day, so I’m inspired to do more sight-seeing again. -Kaitlin Sullivan

The Class of 2018