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Genetic Counseling Assistant Program

Program overview

The Geisinger Genetic Counseling Assistant (GCA) program supports Geisinger’s patient-centered clinical genetics services and genomics research by embedding GCAs in clinics and research across the system. GCAs gain knowledge and skills that support their career growth and professional development while Geisinger genetic counseling clinics and research projects gain specialized support from motivated team members. The GCA program is built on the core values of education and inclusivity. These values are upheld by genetic counselors (GCs) using a growth-minded and collaborative approach to supporting GCAs in their roles and their professional development.

Since its beginning in 2015, the program has supported over 35 GCAs. Many GCAs have chosen to go on to genetic counseling graduate school and are now practicing GCs. Others have pursued a Master of Public Health, studied to be a medical doctor, or gone on to other research roles at Geisinger, such as project coordinator. Typically, Geisinger has 5-10 full-time GCAs. Having many GCAs fosters a sense of community, provides a supportive environment for growth, and allows for additional networking opportunities with peers.

Most GCA jobs at Geisinger have two main roles:

  • Supporting a genetic counseling clinic: triaging incoming referrals from other providers, obtaining and documenting personal and family medical histories using standard pedigree nomenclature, tracking genetic testing orders, and disclosing negative (no increased risk) genetic testing results.
  • Supporting a genetics-related research project: recruiting research participants into a study, coordinating scheduling of participants for study visits, conducting qualitative interviews, completing review of medical records and capturing data in a standardized database for analysis, and writing newsletters to update participants about the study.

Clinics supported by GCAs:

Ongoing research supported by GCAs

  • The Clinical Genome Resource (ClinGen) - A National Institutes of Health-funded resource that defines the clinical relevance of genes and variants for use in precision medicine and research.
  • MyCode Community Health Initiative - Geisinger’s population-based biobank of more than 325,000 participants. MyCode researchers use DNA analysis and electronic medical records to study a broad range of health conditions and disease.
  • GCAs participate in many additional research projects that vary from year to year. 

Opportunities for Geisinger GCAs:

  • Observation opportunities of GCs in clinics above. 
  • Monthly GCA-led journal clubs discussing scientific publications of interest, such as topics in patient experience or new applications of genomics in health care. 
  • Monthly guest speaker series, highlighting interesting cases or topics seen by GCs and other professionals such as project management or bioethics specialists. 
  • GCA Mentorship Program where a GCA is paired with a GC in a mentee-mentor relationship. This program is designed to provide GCAs and GCs the opportunity to engage in collaborative mentorship relationships, fostering professional growth through one-on-one interactions.
  • Genetic counseling graduate school application support from Geisinger GCs. Support offered includes review of written materials (personal statement, resume) and a mock interview to prepare for graduate school interviews.

Program outcomes

  • Positive Impact of GCAs in Cancer Clinic: Implementation of GCA support of the cancer genetic clinic increased GC efficiency in pre-appointment activities and clinic appointments, increased patient volume, and decreased clinic cost per patient. 
  • As of 2023, eight former GCAs have chosen to return to Geisinger to work as GCs with our clinic and research teams. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have them!
  • Geisinger GCAs have also had opportunities to present abstracts as posters or presentations at national conferences including NSGC, ACMG, ASHG, HCSRN and Curating the Clinical Genome. 

Program contact

For questions about Geisinger’s GCA Program, email Miranda Hallquist at mhallquist@geisinger.edu

Application information

Applications for our GCA positions typically open in February, with offers extended in April following GC Program Match Day. The application can be found by searching ‘genetic counseling assistant’ at the main Geisinger Careers site.

Education opportunities

We advertise upcoming webinars and other educational events through the Geisinger Research Twitter account, @GeisingerRsrch. Questions related to webinars, open houses, and similar events can be directed to GCeducation@geisinger.edu.

Genetic counseling open house recordings:

Genetic counseling specialty Q and A recordings:

Observation opportunities

Geisinger offers televideo/telephone observations to U.S. learners. Interested students can request information and paperwork by emailing gceducation@geisinger.edu. Many students are interested in observing with GCs and there is a waitlist. We prioritize observations based on when paperwork was received and when learners are applying to GC programs, and we work to give all observers at least one observation.

Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) 

Find details about Geisinger’s 10-week SURP program here.

 
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"The education and experience that Geisinger has provided me with inspires me and motivates me to not just obtain a degree in genetic counseling, but to become a genetic counselor that Geisinger would be proud of."