Spotlight on the Department of Genetic Counseling

By News Staff

Noelle Danylchuk, M.S., CGC

Noelle Danylchuk, M.S., CGC

The Department of Genetic Counseling has been adapting to the many challenges caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic over the past year. Last year, we wrapped up our final day of in-person applicant interviews for the Class of 2022 on the same day UAMS closed the campus to students.

This year, like almost everything else, we will be having all virtual interviews for applicants for the Class of 2023. In spite of the pandemic, we received 78 applications, a new record for the program. Our transition to virtual learning was much more seamless compared to many other programs, since we were already using Zoom to connect students on three campuses.

Our Class of 2020 alumni interviewed for jobs during the pandemic, and six of the seven were able to secure employment as genetic counselors. The eight members of the Class of 2021 will all graduate on time thanks to the dedication of our faculty, clinical supervisors, alumni and friends of the program who volunteered numerous hours last summer to provide a wide range of simulated clinical training experiences for students when they were unable to attend clinic.

Faculty who typically teach in the fall agreed to move their classes to the summer. This was to allow the students more time in the fall for what we hoped would be in-person clinical training. Students in our program typically have full-time summer clinical rotations where they immerse themselves into the role of the genetic counselor.

All summer rotations were cancelled. However, several students were able to have these experiences last semester (fall 2020) and this semester (spring 2021). Our efforts paid off and the students were able to receive most of their clinical training in person during the fall and spring semesters. As such, the Class of 2021 is prepared to graduate and start their entry-level genetic counseling positions. Two of the eight have already accepted job offers to start this summer.

The faculty is committed to pursuing scholarship and service. Professors Danylchuk, Lepard-Tassin (Class of 2009) and Dean have all submitted manuscripts for publication that are currently in review. In addition, Professor Dean had four journal publications in 2020 and a very recent publication in the Journal of Community Genetics.

Professor Lepard-Tassin and Dr. Brad Schaefer co-authored a book chapter on the genetics of hearing loss that is currently in the editing phase and we hope will be published soon.

Our students, faculty, and alumni continue to represent UAMS at national conferences. Three students in the Class of 2021 had abstracts based on thesis research accepted for poster presentations at the upcoming virtual conference for the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) in April 2021. Professors Dean, Foster (Class of 2015) and Lepard-Tassin are all serving on the new Distance Education Committee for ACGC (Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling). In addition, Professor Dean was invited to serve on a new GeneDx Scientific Advisory Board for a new program they are launching, the new NSGC Advocacy Coordinating Committee and more close to home, the Advisory Board for the Marshallese Inclusive Communities Initiative.

Each year graduating students nominate a clinical supervisor for the AGCPD Outstanding Clinical Supervisor award. The 2020 recipient was Professor Sarah Green (Class of 2010). Professor Green is a clinical genetic counselor who provides supervision for students in Northwest Arkansas during the prenatal and pediatric clinical rotations.

In spite of COVID-19, our program and students have been thriving.  We are immensely grateful for the support of UAMS, our faculty and alumni who make this possible.


Noelle Danylchuk, M.S., CGC, is the chair of the Department of Genetic Counseling.