A Patient’s Impact on Their Genetic Counselor

Submit to the Second Annual Code Talker Award

In 2016, Genome magazine and the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) held the inaugural Code Talker Award — an essay contest sponsored by Invitae for patients and their families to pay tribute to a genetic counselor by nominating him or her for an award to be presented at NSGC’s Annual Conference. We asked genetic counselors whose patients were the finalists in the contest how the award and the essays written by their patient and other patients impacted them. Their thoughts are below.

If you would like to share the impact your genetic counselor has had in your life or the life of others in your family, you can enter the second annual awards by May 22, 2017. You will be eligible for a chance to win a trip to the Annual Conference and be published.

Allison Goetsch, MS, CGC– read her patient’s winning essay here

How did hearing your patient’s story make you feel?
Standing on the stage at NSGC was the first time I heard Melissa’s version of how our relationship unfolded. It was a very emotional experience. I think it was that moment that I understood the magnitude of the impact we as genetic counselors can have on our patients. I felt overwhelmed, grateful, and impressed by Melissa’s strength. At the same time, the experience was a blur. Her story really hit home when I found some quiet time, sat down, and slowly read her story myself. I may have changed Melissa’s life by encouraging her to keep going and by identifying her diagnosis, but Melissa has also made a lasting impact on me. She has truly shaped who I am as a genetic counselor and a person. For that, I am forever grateful to Melissa.

How did you feel when you read other people’s stories in the Code Talker book of essays?
The Code Talker book of essays is inspirational. As I read each story, I felt impressed and amazed by my fellow genetic counselors. It is an honor to be in the same profession, working towards the same goals, with so many likeminded, passionate, and dedicated individuals.

How has being an inaugural Code Talker finalist impacted your life, practice and attitude?
Winning the inaugural Code Talker award has made a big impact on my personal and professional life. For myself, Melissa’s story was validation that I have dedicated myself to the right career and that my passion and willingness to go the extra mile is not unnoticed and is worthwhile. Additionally, through the whole process, my professional network has rapidly expanded. I am extremely excited to share that I have been asked to speak at the 2017 Global Genes symposium on the role of the genetic counselor beyond genetic testing. This is just one example of the many doors the Code Talker award has opened for me.

Also worth noting is something I do not typically share, but choose to now because there is a chance that someone reading this has experienced something similar. In the past, a lot of people in my life questioned my decision to be a genetic counselor. This award (and the essays) helped me share the impact of genetic counseling and the importance of genetic counselors with those individuals. The recognition and professional accolades have not gone unnoticed. Interestingly, many of the people whom previously doubted my career choice, now proudly share with others my accomplishments. I’m hopeful this award and the many powerful essays will continue to highlight the exciting, challenging, and meaningful career of genetic counseling.

Anna Victorine, MS, CGC - Read her patient’s winning essay here

How did hearing your patient’s story make you feel?
Hearing Brooke’s story was such a validating experience. A large reason why I am a genetic counselor is because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, and Brooke’s story proved that I am achieving that goal. Brooke’s story is a permanent reminder of the good genetic counselors can do in the lives of their patients.

How did you feel when you read other people’s stories in the Code Talker book of essays?
I was really struck by the emotions conveyed in each story. Each patient was so genuinely thankful for his or her genetic counselor and the genetic counseling journey. It was clear from reading the stories that genetic counselors, as a whole, really and truly care about their patients. The Code Talker book is such an amazing tribute to the profession and our value to our patients.

How has being an inaugural Code Talker finalist impacted your life, practice and attitude?
Being an inaugural Code Talker finalist has been humbling, uplifting and validating. It is a constant reminder of why I do what I do, both on good days and bad days. It has encouraged me to continue to push to be the best genetic counselor I can possibly be.

Amie Blanco, MS, LCGC, was also recognized as a finalist in the 2016 Code Talker Awards. You can read her patient’s essay here.

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