Meet Michelle Takemoto
ABGC Diplomate Michelle Takemoto, MS, CGC is a genetic counselor at the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) Genetics Program in Honolulu. A graduate of the University of Minnesota Genetic Counseling Program, Michelle’s journey to becoming a genetic counselor was inspired through her personal experience as a genetic counseling patient.
“I first became interested in genetic counseling when I was pregnant with my daughter. We had been referred to a genetic counselor and I found the consultation fascinating. Seven years and a few life changes later, I did an informational interview with my genetic counselor and decided to go back to school,” said Takemoto. “During my time at the University of Minnesota, I connected with the Hawaii DOH Genetics Program back home, and that afforded me the opportunity to attend the first Western States Telegenetics Training session.”
After graduating from the University of Minnesota’s genetic counseling program in 2015, Michelle accepted a position at the Hawaii DOH Genetics Program, the lead organization for the Western States Regional Genetics Network (WSRGN). The WSRGN collaborates with the National Coordinating Center for the Regional Genetics Network (NCC) on projects that increase access to genetic services for underserved populations. These projects include providing public education about genetics and genetic services, decision making about the addition of new conditions to the Hawaii Newborn Screening panel, conducting telegenetics trainings for providers around the country, and starting the Minority Genetic Professionals Network (MGPN). Genetic counselors with the Hawaii Department of Health also provide pediatric genetic services in partnership with Hawaii Community Genetics.
Michelle’s current role involves coordinating the Western States Telegenetics Training program and the telegenetic services provided at Hawaii Community Genetics. She also serves as the coordinator for the MGPN. One of the many rewarding parts of Michelle’s position as a certified genetic counselor is that, through the MGPN, she is able to provide a way for minority CGCs and genetic counseling students to connect with each other and better serve their communities.
“Many MPGN participants have felt isolated, and now are excited to have a vehicle to develop a sense of community and connection that has not previously existed in our field,” said Michelle. “We are still in the early stages of this network, but it is exciting to see the connections that are already being made.
To learn more about Michelle’s journey as a certified genetic counselor, contact her at email@example.com.
Meet Jay McDaniel
Lynch syndrome has been in the DNA of Jay McDaniel’s family for as long as he can remember. He recalls growing up going to funerals of several family members who died from colorectal cancer including his grandfather, two aunts, an uncle, and his father; all by the time he was only 21 years old. His family always wondered if this was a hereditary condition, however the science did not exist at the time to provide clarity.
In 2013, the effects of Lynch syndrome caused Jay to develop Stage 3 B cancer. Thanks to the efforts of his surgeon, Mark Arnold, MD and chemotherapy at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Jay went into remission. Unfortunately, he encountered a second battle with cancer in 2016.
His initial relationship with certified genetic counselors began when American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) Diplomate and former president, Heather Hampel, MS, CGC approached him after his first surgery in 2013 and asked Jay if she could do a series of genetic tests.
“When Heather tested me for Lynch syndrome, my results were positive. She then asked if she could test my three daughters because of its hereditary risks and our family history. I said absolutely, please do,” remembers Jay. “Fortunately, all of the testing was paid for by a grassroots cancer drive called Pelotonia. Out of all three of my daughters, the results from my oldest came back positive. She now she gets annual testing that will most likely save her life.”
In 2016, Jay and 10 other members of the Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative were offered the chance to take place in a clinical trial for immune therapy. “After 18 months of the immune therapy, I experienced minimal side effects compared to chemotherapy. I believe getting into this new form of treatment, at the right time, is most likely saving my life right now,” said Jay.
Through Jay’s experience with certified genetic counselors like Heather, not only have his daughters been tested for Lynch syndrome, but 37 of his family members have been tested as well. Thanks to a family reunion, Jay was able to share his experience with genetic testing and give loved ones the ability to seek preventive care, providing clarity on their health status.
With his influence as the Public Advisor for the American Board of Genetic Counseling, Jay now hopes to increase awareness of the importance of early detection of genetic conditions such as Lynch syndrome, utilizing the help of a certified genetic counselor to help manage personal and familial risk.
“We’ve learned in the last five years that this disease is so much more preventable,” says Jay. “If I could help just one person realize their risk, help their family understand their risk and possibly prevent their suffering, I’ve done my job. Being tested is the solution to stop this disease in your generation. Knowledge is key, because for generations my family has been dying and now we know why.”
To learn more about Jay McDaniel’s journey as a survivor of Lynch syndrome, you can read more on his journey here or contact him at James.McDaniel@huntington.com.
Photo credit: ThisWeek Community News
Meet Meadow Heiman
Meadow Heiman is a Certified Genetic Counselor (CGC) specializing in hematology at the Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center
(IHTC) in Indianapolis, Indiana. A St. Charles, Missouri native, Meadow began her journey to becoming a CGC by earning her Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology at Truman State University in 1998 and her Masters in Medical Genetics at Indiana University in 2000.
A certified genetic counselor since 2002, Meadow has worked in both the clinical and research fields of genetic counseling at the IHTC. As IHTC’s expertise is in genetic blood disorders, Meadow often counsels patients with a number of benign hematologic disorders and hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT). She also works closely with the Hemangioma, Vascular, and Lymphatic Malformation (HVLM) Team, a division that focuses on the treatment of vascular and lymphatic disorders.
While Meadow did not set out on her genetic counseling career intending to specialize in hematology it is serendipitous. Her father’s friend had hemophilia and passed away when Meadow was in her early teens. Through her work with the hemophilia community, she has been able to reconnect with this friend’s family at a meeting of the National Hemophilia Foundation.
Meadow’s personal history with genetic counseling has also helped when it comes to advocating for a patient’s need for seeing a CGC.
“I have sometimes felt that I may advocate for genetic counseling more heavily because of my personal experiences and the fact that there are some physicians out there who don’t have experience with a certified genetic counselor. Sometimes how much genetic counseling and whom we get to see depends on physicians as a gatekeeper. So, it’s important to remember that every time a physician has a good experience with a genetic counselor, it opens the door for the next genetic counselor.”
Meadow Heiman, MS, LCGC
Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center
To learn more about Meadow Heiman’s journey as certified genetic counselor, contact her at mheiman@IHTC.org.
Meet Amy Donahue
Amy Donahue is a certified genetic counselor (CGC) specializing in Neurology, Ophthalmology, Cardiology, Endocrinology, and Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. She has a BA in Mathematics and Russian, and a Master of Library and Information Sciences, and a BS in Biology.
A recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin- Madison's genetic counseling program, Amy transitioned into the field of genetic counseling after working as a Medical Librarian in both hospital and academic settings. She left her job as the User Education Librarian at the Medical College of Wisconsin to take her pre-requisites for genetic counseling, and returned four years later as a certified genetic counselor.
Amy’s motivation for becoming a certified genetic counselor stems from her passion for patient advocacy.
“My primary motivation is helping patients go through things that are hard or tough to understand. My academic motivation was to become an expert in an area to help patients understand what was happening.”
Amy Donahue, CGC
Amy’s desire to enter into the field of genetic counseling and advocate for patients also stems from her personal experience of losing both her sister and a close friend to glioblastoma.
Outside of her specialty, Amy is a listed provider for GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality, a directory for patients in need of healthcare providers who are open to helping patients in the LGBTQ community. She is also a member of the Medical Libraries Association, which helps her stay up to date on patient health literacy issues and the latest information technology.
For more information on Amy’s journey as a certified genetic counselor, watch her story here on LinkedIn and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Sarah Hunt
Sarah Hunt is a certified genetic counselor specializing in oncology at Kaiser Permanente Colorado. A recent graduate from ABGC's certified genetic counseling program in December of 2017, she went on to pass her boards in February 2018. Sarah's relationship with genetic counseling evolved through her personal experience with spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SEDc) or skeletal dysplasia.
Because of this experience, Sarah plays an active role in the organization called Little People of America and the expanded scope of the disabled community. Through her career as a certified genetic counselor, Sarah strives to encourage more individuals from the LPA/disability community to consider genetic counseling as a career.
"Being a genetic counselor with a genetic condition is tough sometimes, as my perspective is often totally different than that of others in my profession. I truly believe that my dwarfism is a strength in helping me connect with and advocate for families."
Sarah Hunt, CGC
Credit: Little People of America
For more information on Sarah's journey as a certified genetic counselor in oncology, contact here at Sarah.C.Hunt@kp.org.
Meet Diplomate Tara Maga, PhD, MS, CGC and Second Year Student Nina Hann
Spotlight on Clinical Supervision
Clinical supervision is an important activity that certified genetic counselors are called to fulfill as members of our professional society. This practice is supported by NSGC’s Code of Ethics, which guides genetic counselors to share their knowledge and provide mentorship and guidance for the professional development of their colleagues, including trainees. Successful clinical supervision requires reaching the right balance between commitment, intention, flexibility, and hard work.
These traits to success can be found in ABGC's spotlighted Diplomates, Tara Maga, PhD, MS, CGC and second year student Nina Hann, a pair that exemplifies successful clinical supervision. Nina Hann, second year student at Northwestern University's Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, rotated with Tara Maga, at the University of Illinois in Chicago in a cancer genetics clinic, serving patients with suspected hereditary cancer syndromes.
The foundation of any successful relationship can be fostered by having an open mind while promoting honesty and respect. From Nina’s point of view, success comes with trusting the supervisor, as well as receiving not only concrete examples, but also constructive criticism and praise.
It is well known that successful clinical supervision is a significant time investment, but it looks like Tara figured out a way to make things work: she shares clinic administrative responsibilities with students, including scheduling, obtaining authorizations, and following up with laboratories. “Not only is this incredibly helpful in allowing us more time to focus on our student’s growth during their rotation, but I also believe it helps our students feel more confident in their own ability to run a clinic in the near future," Tara says.
Nina’s insights about the value of hard work have also grown as the result of this rotation. As she puts it: “The most valuable lesson was that your best learning experiences will be hard.”
Stay tuned for more spotlights on your fellow ABGC Diplomates and how they are furthering their careers in certified genetic counseling.