Awards & Grants


2015 Natalie Weissberger Paul National Acievement Award - Barbara Bernhardt, MS, LCGC

Barbara Bernhardt

The Natalie Weissberger Paul Lifetime Achievement Award is the most distinguished honor within the National Society of Genetic Counselors.  Natalie Weissberger Paul retired in 1993 after a long career with the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. A long-time advocate for genetic counselors and the NSGC, she was instrumental in promoting the profession and securing financial support for projects and publications. The NSGC established this award in 1994. Ms. Weissberger passed away in 1996. This award honors one outstanding member who has served the NSGC with exemplary national achievements and volunteer activities on behalf of the NSGC and the profession.  It is with great pleasure that I am introducing this year's well-deserving award recipient, BARBARA BERNHARDT.

I am delighted and honored to award this year's Natalie Weissberger Paul National Achievement Award to BARBARA BERNHARDT. Barbara has had a rich and distinguished career as a genetic counselor over the past  40 years. She is well known and respected within the genetic counseling community as a researcher and clinician. At last count, she has over 100 peer reviewed publications, book chapters, and alternative media publications. 

She has taken on leadership roles at both the local and national levels from early on in her career. She has been a leader in training the next generation of genetic counselors as a former co-director at Johns Hopkins University and currently as a thesis mentor/clinical supervisor at Arcadia University. In addition to her long list of accomplishments, I was particularly struck by Barbara's humility. 

I was responsible for calling Barbara to notify her of this award. When reviewing her amazing CV, I found myself in awe of Barbara and her success. And perhaps, I also found myself slightly nervous when thinking about calling such a GC powerhouse…. And then thinking about the honor of this award…. “the most distinguished honor.”  Deep breath, Holly. I told myself.  I dialed her number. And I somehow found my words, but I was met with an unexpected reply……..“Get out! Me?! Well, this is so exciting! I am completely blown away.” 

And just like that, Barbara showed me her true character. She has worked selflessly throughout her career. She has a true passion for genetic counseling. And as we chatted, I was even more touched hearing Barbara recall her own memories of Natalie Paul (for whom this award is named) as Barbara and Natalie edited a book together. Even in my brief interaction with Barbara, I see her passion and feel lucky that our society has been adorned with her accomplishments. 

2015 New Leader Award - Leslie A. Bucheit,  MS, CGC 

Bucheit, Leslie

Leslie graduated from the University of Cincinnati Genetic Counseling program in 2012.  In her first genetic counseling role at Baptist Health System in San Antonio, she served as a cancer genetic counselor while also revolutionizing clinical processes and protocols.  She implemented team-building and set goals to enhance collaboration across multiple disciplines.  She was instrumental in expanding genetic services through the Baptist Health System.  In her role with Ambry genetics in 2014, she found value in helping providers understand and implement genetic testing in their practices among underserved populations in the South Central US.  However, Leslie made such a significant impact at Baptist Health that she was invited to return as Manager of Genetic Counseling in 2015, where she leads the way for genetics programming and their telegenetics initiative.  Leslie's return to Baptist was driven by her desire to serve the community she lives in.  She demonstrates that desire by leading initiatives within a number of local and regional groups including: the Texas Society of Genetic Counselors, the Alamo City Cancer Council, the San Antonio Chapter of the PKD Foundation, area school systems, Breast Health Campaigns, and others.

Leslie has served in multiple leadership roles within NSGC.  Leslie joined NSGC in 2011 and began volunteering for the Student New Member SIG while in graduate school.  She chaired this SIG from 2012 to 2014.  In 2014, Leslie became a member of the NSGC Membership Committee where she has chaired the Student/New Member Orientation and the Professional Status Survey Subcommittees, and she founded the SIG Engagement Subcommittee.  She is also co-chair of the Outreach Subcommittee within the Industry SIG and is a member of the Cancer SIG.

Leslie's nominators describe her as a savvy motivator, supporter of others, idea-generator, and hard-worker.  They state that she is always positive and capable of finding ways to move forward in even the toughest situations.  The following quote was used to describe her:  “She is the leader that brings out the best in her team; [who] helps us strive for our personal best because we know she is always giving us hers.”  Nominators remarked how “Leslie makes you feel like you are the most important person in the world” because “she gives you her full attention, no matter how many things she has on her plate”.  Her reach within the genetics community goes far, and this introduction only scratches the surface of her impact.

I asked Leslie to describe what she is most passionate about, and she said it's “empowering others to find their passions and breaking down barriers to do so”.  She said, “leadership is as simple as saying "yes" when others say “no”, thanking team members for making a conference call, asking how someone's day is going and giving others the opportunity to shine [while] not [always] doing the work yourself”.   While that may be true, but Leslie's contributions to the team are always above and beyond expectations.

At the heart of her varied accomplishments is a common thread: enthusiastic, innovative, dedicated leadership.  On behalf of NSGC, it is my great honor to present the 2015 NSGC New Leader Award to Leslie Bucheit.  

2015 New Leader Award - Katherine Spoonamore,  MS, LCGC

Spoonamore, Katherine

Katie graduated from the Indiana University Genetic Counseling Program in 2012.  In her current genetic counseling position, she serves as a cardiovascular genetic counselor with Indiana University. During her time there, in addition to her clinical responsibilities, Katie works with physicians, research coordinators, staff, and administrators to implement comprehensive genetic counseling services into a variety of cardiovascular clinical settings. Part of her responsibilities include submitting research protocols, maintaining a cardiovascular patient registry, developing a cardiovascular genetics curriculum for the IU Genetic Counseling Program, and teaching and supervising students.

Katie's dedication to the profession has been apparent in her many volunteer roles prior to graduation as Katie has been a member of both NSGC and the Indiana Network of Genetic Counselors since 2011. Her leadership positions include service on both local and national organizations. She is the current Vice President of the Indiana Network of Genetic Counselors and has been a member of the conference planning committee for the past three years. Additionally, Katie is a member of the Heart Rhythm Society and was an invited conference speaker in 2015 as well as a recipient of the Heart Rhythm Travel Scholarship in 2014. Recently, she received the Exceptional Benefit to the Division award from the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, IU School of Medicine, and she has been invited to be a part of the Invitae Cardiology Advisory Board.

In her work with NSGC, Katie has taken on an array of leadership positions. She is an active member of the Cardiovascular Genetics SIG and involved with creating educational breakout session submissions, participating in multiple SIG projects related to member resources, and a founding member of the Education subcommittee. Katie has been very involved with the Membership Committee as well. This year, she is the co-chair of the Mentor Program, and in this role, Katie initiated a collaboration with the CV SIG that created successful Mentor Program matches within the SIG. She also serves on the scholarship subcommittee of the Membership Committee. In 2015, Katie assisted the Nominating Committee as a member at-large to slate the 2016 board of directors for NSGC. 

Katie's nominators discuss her passion for cardiovascular genetics, as well as her interest in educating others about this subspecialty. Katie has been instrumental in planning submissions from the cardiovascular genetics SIG, creating cardiovascular genetic counseling resources, founding an educational subcommittee, and leading continuing education opportunities via teleconference. At the local level, Katie has played a key role in planning the INGC conference for the past four years, which attracts nationally recognized speakers. Her education efforts also include a variety of publications, including five in the past year alone as well as five poster/abstract presentations since 2014.

Katie is described as an emerging leader who is passionate about the field.  As one nominator states, “INGC and NSGC have already benefitted greatly from her initiative, novel ideas, work ethic, commitment, and leadership.” We are excited to see what Katie does next!  

2015 Strategic Leader Award - Christina G.S. Palmer, MS, PhD, CGC 

Palmer, Christina

The strategic leader award is awarded to the NSGC member who promotes the genetic counseling profession as a recognized and integral part of health care delivery. Recipients demonstrate strategic thinking and leadership through their work with NSGC and make significant contributions to achieving goals within NSGC's strategic plan. There is no question that this year's recipient demonstrates all of these characteristics and more as a strategic leader. 

I am delighted and honored to award this year's strategic leader award to Dr. Christina Palmer. Christina has been an active NSGC leader for many years, and for the past three years has been Vice Chair, Chair, and currently Past Chair of the Practice Guidelines Committee. In 2013, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality announced that they would raise the standards for guidelines that were to be included in the national registry. Christina recognized that this was key to our strategic initiative to establish NSGC as the standard-maker that identifies quality measures for genetic counseling services. Christina attended seminars to learn more about the new standards and evidence-based medicine and brought those teachings back to educate the rest of the committee and by extension, the society as a whole. She then guided the Practice Guidelines Committee to build a more robust evidence-based process for our guidelines culminating in the completion of a new manual - a critical resource for NSGC.  In addition to these achievements, Christina is an accomplished researcher, professor and mentor and I'm pleased to invite her to the podium to accept this year's Strategic Leader award.

2015 Outstanding Volunteer Award - Gillian Hooke r, PhD, ScM, CGC 

Hooker, Gillian

Gillian initially got her Ph.D. in Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology from Yale in 2006 before deciding to go back to school and become a genetic counselor. She received her Master's in Genetic Counseling from the John Hopkins/NIH Genetic counseling program in 2009 and worked as a cancer counselor and Post-doctoral researcher  in Cancer Prevention and Control from Georgetown University and served as the associate director of the Hopkins/NIH training program.  Gillian is currently the Director of Clinical Development at NextGxDx.

However, Gillian is being honored today, not because she has three VERY impressive degrees, but because on top of her job, she works tirelessly to promote our field on a national level through her activities within NSGC. Gillian has served as a member of the Abstract Review Committee, Co-chair of the Familial Cancer SIG Research Subcommittee, Co-Chair of the Research SIG, and is currently the Vice-Chair of the Practice Guidelines Committee, member of the JEMF Advisory Group, Chair of the Test Quality Subcommittee, and a board member of the Tennessee Genetic Counselor Association.

But even more important than an impressive list of Gillian's volunteer activities, is the impact she has made through her efforts. To quote one of Gillian's nominators: “Wherever Gillian goes, excellence follows. In her volunteerism, she shares her expertise and ideas freely and in strategic ways that strongly encourage collaboration as well as promote the strength of the organization and profession as a whole. Being a part of Gillian's teams and educational efforts means you are part of something important that makes a difference” 
So, on behalf of NSGC and our profession, let me say- Thank you Gillian for your time and dedication to our profession. You are truly an outstanding volunteer! 

2015 Outstanding Volunteer Award - Emily Edelm an, MS, CGC

Edelman, Emily

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