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What was it like to be a pioneer in genetic counseling? I guess it's like being a pioneer
in anything. Nobody knows where you are trying to go. They sometimes don’t know how to
help you, and don’t know what you’re going to do with that. But somehow in my head I
just knew what I wanted to do, I wanted to be in a clinic and work with patients, on
the side of genetics that explained it, not from a laboratory standpoint, but from a personal
standpoint. Bruce Eberhart, who was chairman of the Biology department at that time, introduced
me to Laura Anderton, who had been in administration at UNCG and had gone back to teaching. She
became my major advisor in graduate school. And she was flexible enough to take me on
and let me do something that they had never done before. And let me tailor- I had to plan
my own program of course, because there wasn’t a genetic counseling degree at that time there,
so she let me plan what I needed to do. I don’t know if some other place would have
had a Bruce Eberhart or a Laura Anderton to be willing to work with me on doing something
that was totally far afield from anything they had done before. So that’s... I owe all of that to UNCG.
I think one of the biggest roles we play probably is being a liaison between
the scientific world, the medical laboratory world, and the everyday world. So the liaison
at least to me, that’s the role we play. It’s building a rapport with that patient.
You got to take real thorough family histories. And some people don’t want to talk to you
about that unless they think you’re okay. You are equal with them and on a level that
it’s alright to talk to you about great Aunt Susie, who had a little weird personality
or had this awful disease she never wanted to talk about, and couldn’t get her to tell
you, but they will finally talk to you about it.
My first job, I worked for them once I had done some schooling there, that clinical part of my schooling. I worked for them in
the pediatric department for nothing until I could prove to them that they couldn’t
live with out me, and finally they put me on the payroll. There just weren’t positions
in those days. You made your job, so to speak.
I don’t know that everybody is aware that UNCG now has a program, a graduate program in genetic counseling. You can get a degree
there in genetic counseling. It is the only program of that kind in North Carolina. If
you’re interested in science and like people... Maybe science you always thought either being
in the medical field in a clinic, be an MD, or being in a laboratory as a Ph.D. or a lab
tech, this is something that sort of marries all of that together. As a nice, maybe, adventure
that you haven’t thought of before. So I encourage you to think about genetic counseling
as a career.