National Society of Genetic Counselors

    Genetic Counselors: Adapt, Evolve and Thrive

    Genetic counselors are at the forefront of an ever-evolving world of genetics. Their unique expertise and ability to connect with and empower patients positions the profession as an important part of the healthcare team.

    At the 37th Annual Conference in Atlanta, we’re celebrating genetic counselors who embody this diverse and thriving profession. During the plenary session on Wednesday, Nov. 14, from 3:45-4:15 p.m. three contest winners will present what the conference theme “Adapt, Evolve and Thrive” means to them. See below for the winning video submissions and a peek into the individuals’ discussions.


    Dana M. Knutzen, MS, CGC

    What inspired you to submit your story to this contest?

    As a genetic counselor who was also once a patient, I know firsthand what it means to receive news that you were not expecting. It's important to remember that the moments we spend with patients can have a lasting impact on their lives. I want my colleagues to know how my experience as a genetic counseling patient has shaped my life over the years, just as they are shaping the lives of the patients they see every day.

    What is the most rewarding part of your job as a genetic counselor?

    The most rewarding part of my job is having the ability to really help someone. In today's world of healthcare, many people are rushed through their appointments without having the opportunity to tell their story, voice their concerns or receive acknowledgment for the grief they may be experiencing. As a genetic counselor, I get to be that person who truly takes the time to listen. Having the ability to try to understand where the patient is coming from while educating them about their genetic diagnosis is truly a blessing that most healthcare providers don't have the ability to do. 

    What would you say to other genetic counselors or students looking for inspiration in their jobs or career paths?

    Dig deep and press on. Find out what excites you about this profession and go after it. There will be many obstacles along the way and at times you will wonder what you are doing, but keep pushing forward if it's what you really want to do. Don't let anyone stand in your way. Genetic counselors can do many things with their degrees – the sky is the limit! 


    Nadine N. Channaoui, MS

    What inspired you to submit your story to this contest?

    I wanted to expose my story as a minority genetic counselor and to foster dialogue about experiences at risk of being unheard, unseen and unnoticed within our profession. The opening plenary speaker contest was an uncanny opportunity. I wanted to un-silence myself, and there was a contest asking genetic counselors to speak up. The video format of the contest particularly appealed to me because it allowed me to consider not only the words of my story but also the delivery of those words. I elected to share my story of adaptation, evolution and thrive as a slam poem because I have felt quite empowered and inspired by that particular style of story-telling and thought viewers might feel similarly captivated.

    How can others help promote diversity in the profession?

    There is a lot to be extrapolated from the word underrepresented.

    Under = insufficient, below a threshold

    Re = again, repeated

    Presented = highlighted, showcased, revealed, seen

    Individuals who are underrepresented are repeatedly insufficiently showcased or seen. To promote diversity in genetic counseling, there needs to be an amplification of voices that are underrepresented in the field. From the photographs of individuals with medical conditions we display in our slideshow presentations to the leaders we elect within our profession, there are countless opportunities to shift the demographics highlighted in our field. Also, prioritization of genetic counseling tuition relief for students of underrepresented backgrounds is absolutely necessary as graduate tuition is a major obstacle for individuals with socioeconomic hardship or substantial financial responsibility for themselves and their families.

    What would you say to anyone interested in being a genetic counselor?

    Genetics is such a booming field, and we need more genetic counselors! One of my favorite aspects of the genetic counseling profession is its chameleon-like ability to accommodate each genetic counselor’s individual interests and needs. Whether you are passionate about research involvement, patient-interaction, health ethics, advocacy, science-writing, education, or psychosocial support – there are roles for you. If you’re thinking about being a genetic counselor, please reach out to a genetic counselor. We love multiplying our forces (I guess it’s in our DNA).

    Shivani Nazareth, MS, CGC

    What inspired you to submit your story to this contest?
    I’m an avid listener of the MOTH podcast, and I love TED talks. There’s something about the power of stories and personal narrative that I find really compelling.  When I hear people speak authentically about their life experiences, I feel inextricably connected to their humanity. Recently, I took an IDEO course in storytelling, and I figured this contest was a good way to put what I learned into practice.

    What “other language” do you feel has been most valuable in your career?
    Learning the language of media, whether it’s engaging in social media or literally interviewing with a journalist, has been quite valuable. I’m pretty introverted, so it wasn’t necessarily a natural fit for me to insert myself into broader conversations about genetics. That said, I feel really strongly about the need for genetic literacy. Engaging with media is an important part of increasing public access to genetic information, so when given the opportunity to learn how to “speak media,” I willingly stepped out of my comfort zone.

    What do you want someone to remember most from your plenary presentation?
    We are all capable of using our foundational genetic skills to take professional leaps, lean into uncomfortable areas and ultimately thrive.


    The NSGC Annual Conference is Nov. 14-17 and showcases advancements across the breadth of the genetic counseling profession to provide education and build community. The conference provides a unique opportunity to engage and network with colleagues and pursue professional development. To learn more, visit here.


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