HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine hosted a genetic counseling student this summer for a mini-rotation including experiences in genomic medicine, sequencing and bioinformatics, variant analysis and educational outreach. Amy Donahue, who is beginning her second year as a genetic counseling student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison this fall, observed and participated in genetic counseling work with the HudsonAlpha genetic counselors and Educational Outreach team.

“Genetic counseling is one of the fastest growing career fields in the United States. Since HudsonAlpha and the Smith Family Clinic are leaders in applying genomic research and discoveries in clinical care, we are excited to offer this opportunity for trainees to work alongside our genetic counseling team,” said Kelly East, a certified genetic counselor who worked with Donahue this summer. “The rotation allowed Amy to see first hand the variety of ways that the genetic counseling skill set can be used in the practice of genomic medicine.”

Check out our Q&A with Donahue about her experience in the mini-rotation at HudsonAlpha:

Briefly describe your genomic medicine mini-rotation experience at HudsonAlpha:

During my two weeks, I had the opportunity to see the range of work the HudsonAlpha genetic counselors are involved in. For example, at the Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine, I observed patients at various points in their diagnostic journeys and learned about the Genome Gateway system that helps the clinic capture patient information as well as provide education. I also learned about the CSER research study and saw the genetic counselors’ roles in both enrolling and giving results back to families with children with developmental disabilities. And I had the opportunity to learn about the bioinformatics systems that HudsonAlpha has developed and how their research and clinical teams come together to classify genomic variants that impact individuals.

What was the most valuable part of the experience?

Seeing all the different projects the genetic counselors at HudsonAlpha are involved with  expanded my understanding of what genetic counselors can do. As someone interested in research, education and direct patient care, being able to see how someone can work in all those areas as a genetic counselor was priceless!

Has the experience supplemented your genetic counseling training?

Very much so! Specifically, I haven’t had much opportunity in my training to see how people are enrolled in research studies, and seeing both CSER and the Smith Family Clinic enrollments where the genetic counselor did the consenting was very helpful. And I learned a lot about the benefits and limitations of genomic medicine. I think that genetics is quickly headed in that direction. I felt like I was seeing things a few steps ahead of all my other rotation sites to date – and without some of the barriers – allowing me to better understand the potential impacts on health. I also had the chance to talk to researchers and scientists about bioinformatics, learning about systems to support variant calling and projects with protein modeling. Neither of those subjects have been a part of my training so far, but both allowed me to think about how information goes from bench to bedside.

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