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Amelia Chappelle '07, MA, MS
- Attended Mount Holyoke College, earning her Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience and Behavior
- Received an Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) that provided the opportunity to work at the Lab of Neurogenetics in the National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- Earned her MS in Human Genetics and MA in Health Advocacy from Sarah Lawrence College in 2007
I was introduced to genetic counseling during senior year of high school in my biomedical procedures class. The difficult decisions and ethical dilemmas surrounding genetic testing intrigued me, and I was hooked! I have a particular interest in increasing the public’s access to knowledge by translating difficult scientific information into understandable concepts. I also am interested in multifaceted issues and topics that have no “right” or “wrong” sides, but a lot of “in between” space. I was drawn to Sarah Lawrence’s supportive atmosphere of critical thinking and individuality.
How did your coursework prepare you for your fieldwork and eventual career?
I found the coursework in the Human Genetics program and the Health Advocacy program extremely complementary. The genetics curriculum provided on the ground training for understanding and interpreting complex scientific information and the tools to communicate most effectively with patients. The advocacy curriculum provided a broader, more systems view of the healthcare world and the different players in the system. These two perspectives have provided invaluable background to every aspect of my current career.
Where were your fieldwork assignments? What type of skills/knowledge did you acquire through your fieldwork, which have aided you in your professional life?
Although I completed many clinical genetics rotations, a number of my fieldwork assignments were to gain experience for both the Human Genetics and the Health Advocacy programs. These included working at March of Dimes and the Washington and Hawaii Genetics Departments in the State Departments of Health. These internship opportunities gave me the experience of using my knowledge of genetics in a public health setting. They allowed me to experience genetic counselors in “non-traditional” settings and opened my eyes to other skill sets that are necessary for jobs outside of direct patient care.
What was the focus of your M.S. thesis?
Gene patenting and licensing
Where have you worked, and what have you worked on, since graduating?
I work for Genetic Alliance as the Associate Director of Genetics Resources and Services. Genetic Alliance is a nonprofit based out of Washington, D.C. that transforms health through genetics and promotes an environment of openness centered on the health of individuals, families, and communities. We bring together diverse stakeholders that create novel partnerships in advocacy, integrate individual, family, and community perspectives to improve health systems, and revolutionize access to information to enable translation of research into services and individualized decision making. Personally, I manage our Access to Credible Genetics Resources Network grant, a five year CDC-funded project and oversee our various genetics resources and services.
Have you/do you intend to pursue another degree or explore certification options?
At this time, I do not have plans for pursuing another degree, but I love school, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up in classes again in the future!
What advice can you offer to people who are considering pursuing Human Genetics as a career?
I would say to think big; there are so many types of jobs out there that may not be specifically advertised to genetic counselors. The skill sets gained from the Human Genetics program are multifaceted and highly transferable. Follow your strengths and interests!