Genetic Counseling in a Specialty Clinic
Connie Gibb is the genetic counsellor for the hemophilia clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College. She is a member of a team that follows hemophilia patients in the New York area. Patients commonly visit the clinic for a yearly comprehensive appointment where they meet with doctors, nurses, a psychologist, a physiotherapist, and a genetic counsellor. Connie has been at Weill Cornell since graduating from Sarah Lawrence and enjoys working as a part of a group where everyone comes together to understand the patient from all perspectives.
Connie had always been interested in genetics. She first heard of genetic counseling through a cousin who had visited one due to a family history of cancer and developed her interest from there. Before entering the program, she took one year of preliminary science classes to ensure that she had the appropriate background. She entered the genetic counseling program as a mature student after working as a special education teacher, and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 2002 with her master’s degree in human genetics.
Originally, Connie did not expect to be working in a comprehensive clinic, as it is very different from a prenatal or cancer clinic. In the hemophilia clinic, she rarely has the opportunity to research new diseases, as most of the patients are affected with hemophila A or B. While Connie wanted to work in a cancer genetics clinic when she began her career, she is delighted to be working at Weill Cornell. The different experiences and relationships she has developed with families in her current position are invaluable. Although she used to read about genetics in the news, Connie didn’t realize how frequently the science changes. With all of the new information and research being introduced, it is important for genetic counsellors to keep up to date. Staying current will be difficult, but essential for future genetic counsellors.
In an effort to stay current herself, Connie has also recently become the research coordinator and investigator for a study at her clinic. The research focuses on the rare occurrence of females who are affected with hemophilia. The research focuses on the rare occurrence of females who are affected with hemophilia. Connie has always been interested in doing research, and was excited to be given the opportunity to be a part of a study that helps her stay up to date in her field. According to Connie, the biggest challenge that genetic counsellors will face in the future will be adapting to the direct to consumer market.
Although she has only been working in the field for six years, Connie says she has already noticed a major change in the amount of testing that can be done without a genetic counsellor there for information and support. She believes that genetic counsellors should somehow be involved with the market, as it is important for consumers to be educated on tests and to have assistance with interpreting their results.
When asked if she had any advice for the current genetic counseling students at Sarah Lawrence, Connie emphasized the importance of staying fresh. Most genetic counseling jobs do not have a natural progression with career incentives such as promotions or advancements. This means it is especially important for us to avoid burning out by getting stuck in the same routine for too long. For some people that means switching jobs every couple of years or getting involved with new research whenever possible. She said that it is important that we all find a way to stay challenged and enjoy what we do.