From a young age Dena Goldberg, CGC, knew she wanted to work in a field that involved helping people with disabilities or working with genetics after her sister was diagnosed with Ring 18. Genetic counseling provided that opportunity, allowing her to pursue her interest in genetics while also fostering her compassionate counselor side.
A graduate of the genetic counseling program at the University of California, Irvine, Dena began her career as a clinical genetic counselor at the University of California, San Francisco in 2015, specializing in gastrointestinal cancer genetics. Although she loved working in a clinical setting, Dena felt that the one thing she wasn’t able to bring to her role as a clinical genetic counselor as much as she wanted was her creative, entrepreneurial side.
As a result, in 2019, Dena took her passion for the genetic counseling profession to the entrepreneurial world, leaving her clinical position at UCSF to focus on her brand, DenaDNA
. Developing her brand, a platform for better educating the public about genetic counseling, initially started as a side hobby in graduate school.
Though her brand is young, it is Dena’s mission to “spread awareness of medical genetics and medical genetic services to the general public through media and marketing techniques not typically used by the medical community. Right now I’m focusing on video content development and guest speaking opportunities so that people can become familiar with and recognize genetic counseling and understand how it’s relevant to them.”
As an entrepreneur, Dena admits that the transition away from a clinical setting to having her own brand isn’t always easy. Dena reached a point where she did not have the time she wanted to dedicate to her brand and continue to work in a clinical setting. Things worked out in her personal life to allow her to choose to pursue her brand full-time, with the support of many of her colleagues, peers and mentors in the genetic counseling community.
Developing her brand has come with a lot of trial and error. Although many of the communications skills she used as a genetic counselor have helped make the transition easier, she still finds that there’s a lot of new skills to learn and develop when it comes to running a business. What has particularly helped her in this transition is her ability to talk about the profession in a way that people from all walks of life can understand. She’s also had to adjust to not having the structures of working in a clinical setting, as it can be challenging when those structures aren’t there to keep things organized.
One of the biggest lessons Dena has learned transitioning to being an entrepreneur is that it is OK to self-promote and help represent the profession – it can be easy to stay isolated within the genetic counseling community. She encourages other genetic counselors to get out there on social media and use their platforms to intentionally and professionally represent the field, educating consumers and other healthcare professionals about genetic counseling. She recommends keeping in mind that one of the best ways to reach patients is through the use of media. She hopes to be the go-to “TV genetic counselor” and one day have her own series.