Meet the Faculty
by Lauren Thomas
When did you first learn about genetic counseling, and when did you decide to pursue it?
I first learned about genetic counseling when a friend of mine had her 8th miscarriage, and then she had trisomy 13. She told me all about her genetic counselor and got my attention. I had been interested in medical ethics, but when I heard about genetic counseling, I thought, yes— wanted a field that wasn’t purely academic, but also works with people. Everything that I wanted and liked all came together in this field.
What has most surprised you about the field?
What most surprised me was/is the rate of change—and how rapidly it is becoming impossible to keep track of all the significant change in this science.
Are you doing what you thought you would be doing?
This is sort of a dream job for me—I am doing what I hoped I would be doing. I probably envisioned a different path – but my dream was to combine writing and science – and so far I’ve been given that opportunity. I didn’t anticipate that I love teaching—but I do.
How did your special interest in bioethics come about?
Bioethics was what I was always interested in. I’m opposite of the typical genetic counseling student in that sense. I was always interested in ethics and philosophy—the biology part has something to do with the fact that 85% of my family are physicians, and I was a critic.
What do you think will be biggest challenges that Genetic Counselor’s will face in the upcoming years?
I think the hardest thing is that—as the field changes—I don’t think genetic counseling will be viewed as equally necessary. We will need to constantly re-negotiate what our role is, and where we come in. People get wedded in their ways of doing things, having to constantly prove yourself over and over again. I think genetic counselors have the tools to be very flexible with a knowledge base applicable to many things—but to have to keep reinventing yourself, and your role, requires a bit of a pioneering spirit.
What do you remember most about your years at SLC?
Well , the excitement of learning as much in such a short period of time. For me, having taken a long break and being a mom at home—I don’t know if I would’ve have appreciated it so much had I gone straight from college to graduate school. It was great to be mom for 10 years, but it was really great to go out and learn something new everyday. Another memory I have—Our class had a “dress like an SLC student day“ (we thought we were so wild) and decked out like wackos. When we took a picture, the guy taking it was like, “what?
What advice do you have for current genetic counseling students?
Come to class—do your homework! My advice—if there’s something you envision yourself doing that’s outside of the standard career path of Genetic Counseling—go for it. We have a very unusual skill-set—it can be a challenge to establish yourself. I admire the counselors I’ve met and the students I’ve taught—my feeling is that—they are capable of doing a vast number of things. So I would encourage people to try.