Who’s Who in Genetics

When I was a student at Stern College and I was considering a career in the health sciences, I did not know where to start.  It seemed like all my friends who were biology majors knew what they wanted to do, but none of their choices excited me. And then one day in my junior year, I was introduced to Dr. Harry Ostrer who set me up with a genetic counselor at NYU Cancer Institute. I spent a few days shadowing her and I knew this was the job for me.

I was lucky enough to get in the game while I was still in undergrad, but two of my colleagues have told me that they would have considered genetic counseling as a career had they known about it when they were first starting their careers.  So I compiled a list of current careers in genetics that I wish I had known about when I was in college:

Genetic Counselors (Masters degree) – Genetic counselors identify the risk for their patients and/or their relatives to have genetic diseases. When a particular disease is suspected, the counselor will educate the patient about the symptoms, management, inheritance, available testing, and prevention of the disease, if that is an option. Genetic counselors can be clinical or they can conduct research. Clinical genetic counselors work in reproductive, cancer, pediatric, or adult genetics clinics, and also in laboratories. Research genetic counselors are usually part of a team, and they are involved in conducting clinical or scientific research about technologies or trends in genetics.

Medical Geneticists (Medical degree) – Medical Geneticists usually have trained as OB/GYNs, internists or pediatricians, and also have completed specialty training in medical genetics. Reproductive medical geneticists deal with pregnant women who are at risk for their fetuses to have genetic diseases, and do procedures such as chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis. Adult medicine and pediatric geneticists evaluate individuals who are suspected to have genetic diseases via detailed physical exams and by ordering appropriate testing.

PhD Geneticists– PhD geneticists can work on the clinical and/or the research sides of genetics. On the clinical side, these geneticists may interpret the results of genetic tests or develop new tests. On the research side, these geneticists spend their time looking for the genetic basis of specific diseases, with the hope of opening up new diagnostic and therapeutic options.

Bioinformaticists- This is an up-and-coming field in genetics. Bioinformaticists hold PhD degrees in the field of bioinformatics, which is the use of computers to handle biological information. Bioinformatics has various applications in science, specifically in the field of genetics.

As you can see, within each career there is room for specializing. When I give advice to interested students, I encourage them to spend a few days shadowing those people who do what you might want to do. You just may be inspired!

Posted on November 29, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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