Meeting a JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program graduate will help you learn more about the program and may help when deciding whether to apply.
Coursework for the Genetic Counseling Training Program (GCTP) is offered on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., and at the medical and undergraduate campuses of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Courses are scheduled with the goal of minimizing the number of days students have to be at different geographic locations on the same day. Nonetheless, travel between Bethesda and Baltimore is required during each week. Clinical rotations are provided in both the greater Baltimore and Washington D.C. metro areas. Car travel is essential to manage the program, although students often carpool.
A Day in the Life of a 1st Year Student
7:00 a.m: Wake up, eat breakfast, and get ready for the day.
8:00 a.m: Shuttle ride to the School of Public Health. I take the free, fifteen-minute Hopkins shuttle with my fellow Hopkins peers to the Medical and Public Health Campus in East Baltimore. I meet my classmate at the Hampton House Café to pick up an ice coffee and banana before heading to class.
8:30 - 9:30 a.m: Thesis Proposal Development. We have class with our Academic Director, Debra Roter. This week, we learn about qualitative study designs from a guest lecturer faculty member at the school of public health. After the lecture, my classmates discuss the day's reading and share ideas and interests that will inspire our thesis research.
10:30 a.m: Downtime in the Hopkins library. I print out two articles that were selected by my upper classmate for Journal Club on Thursday night and fill in my thoughts for discussion. This week's topic is about how to measure the outcomes of genetic counseling and how to use these measures to evaluate different methods of communication.
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m: Carpool to the NIH. Today it's my turn to drive so the five of us pack into my car, Bertha. We share stories about our past weekend and any upcoming weekend plans and try to relax. This is a time when we also discuss upcoming assignments or work on current group assignments. We also discuss the two papers for the Journal Club next week.
12:00 - 1:00 p.m: Lunch and catch-up on work. While I eat a sandwich from the NIH cafeteria, I review cases for Supervision at my NIH cubicle by listening to my tapes from clinic and spending some time reflecting on the cases. I also work on finalizing details for my Post Clinic Conference presentation, a short lecture I will present to the NIH geneticists, genetics fellows, and my classmates.
1:00 - 3:00 p.m: Cancer Genetics. Today, my classmates and I learn how to use BRCA1/2 risk assessment models. We begin class by each presenting a case to the group in which we have conducted a thorough cancer and mutation risk assessment. Then we learn about psychosocial counseling issues and the available evidence-based research to inform counseling in the clinical cancer setting from a guest lecturer at the NIH. We end class by each sharing our ideas for our "Create Your Own Multi-Gene Panel" presentation on the last day of class.
3:30 - 4:30 p.m: Supervision with Lori Erby. Lori and I listen to my taped session, and discuss what went well and what could be improved. Then we role-play to practice counseling skills together.
4:30 p.m: Downtime and prep for Genetic Counseling Seminar on Friday. I listen to my tape from clinic and transcribe a part of a case while enjoying a bowl of my newest soup recipe. I print the lecture slides for my next class and talk with my classmates.
5:30 - 7:30 p.m: Introduction to Medical Genetics II. We walk over to a different building on campus and go to class with the 2nd-year classmates as well as the NIH medical genetics fellows and other researchers. Each week we receive a lecture from a leading geneticist or researcher in a specific field. Today's class is a review of neurogenetics, given by the division chief of neurodevelopmental disabilities at Children's National Medical Center.
7:30 - 8:30 p.m: Drive back to Baltimore. My classmates and I mostly relax, joke around, and watch funny YouTube videos to unwind from the day.
8:30 p.m: Arrive home. I talk with my husband, then try to get ahead by doing some reading for our class about the ethical, legal, and social implications in genetics, which is in two days.
A Day in the Life of a 2nd year student
8:30 a.m: Drive to the NIH. Ten minutes from my apartment in downtown Bethesda, I quickly get on campus and park near our building.
8:45 - 9:45 a.m: Head to the gym. Our building has a small but convenient gym in the basement, complete with locker rooms and showers. The gym membership is an easy $20 per month or a $5 drop-in fee, and fitness classes are available for slightly more. Some days I go for a trail run at the Patuxent Reservoir in the afternoon or evening, but today is a little too busy for that.
11:00am - 1:00 p.m: Health Judgment and Decision-making class. Dr. Bill Klein lectures and leads discussions about the psychology of decision-making and how we can use such knowledge to help clients in clinic. As part of the class, we each present a research paper, and today is my turn. I talk about what made me want to present this paper, then review the population, the methodology, the results, and the strengths and shortcomings. We discuss the paper's potential impact on decision science and how we might use the study as a jumping-off point for further research.
1:00 - 3:00 p.m: Lunch at my desk and catch-up on clinical work. When I don't have time to pack my lunch, I go upstairs to our cafeteria for a salad or sandwich. I generally make a cup of tea in the kitchen and work on my schoolwork. I call my rotation advisor to debrief about clinic yesterday, as we didn't have time to do so after clinic. We talk about what went well and what could use improvement in my counseling skills. We also look at the clinic schedule for next week and decide which patients I will see. I work on the desktop computer at my desk prepping for tomorrow's clinic by sifting through online patient records, researching differential diagnoses, and writing clinical notes to ensure I am prepared to see patients tomorrow. I also enter last week's cases into my logbook. Lastly, I transcribe one of my cases to present in our Seminar class on Friday.
3:30 - 4:15 p.m: Thesis meeting with my thesis advisor. Lori Erby and I discuss the progress I have made on my thesis proposal, as well as any questions I have. She advises me on ways to refine and clarify my objectives, as well as ways to effectively execute my study.
4:15 - 5:00 p.m: Work on my thesis proposal. A written copy of our thesis proposal is due to the executive committee in mid-November and oral defenses of our proposals are generally in early December. I spend the rest of my afternoon writing a section of my proposal.
5:00 - 6:00 p.m: Back home. I unwind with my roommates while eating dinner and watching TV.
6:00 - 9:00 p.m: Reading and homework. I review a few more notes and papers to prepare for clinic tomorrow, then download our readings and begin one for our Facilitating Adaptation class, where we learn about the various psychological processes related to adaption. I also download the slides for our Medical Genetics and Genomics class later in the week.
A Day in the Life of a 3rd year student
8:00 a.m: Quality time with my friends at National Public Radio. They keep me company on the drive from my house near the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Baltimore to meet with my thesis advisor.
9:00 a.m: Pre-thesis-meeting visit to the Daily Grind at Hopkins for coffee.
9:30 a.m: Meeting with my thesis advisor, Debra Roter.
11:00 a.m: Pick up classmates to carpool back to NIH. NPR is great, but classmates in the car is better, and on this particular day, there's a journal club that they will be attending in Bethesda before returning to their homes in Baltimore.
12:00 p.m: Settle into my cubicle for an afternoon of data analysis and preparation. For my next day in clinic., interspersed, of course, with a little bit of fun and conversation with those working around me at NIH.
5:30 p.m: Journal club at Bill Klein’s house. We discuss the importance of self-efficacy for our patients over take-out food.
8:00 p.m: Back home again. I log on to my computer thinking I might open up my data set again, but end up chatting on-line with my classmates about our up-coming travel to the NSGC meeting.
Meet a Graduate Student
JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program (GCTP) alumni in the below-listed locations are available to meet with interested applicants. Meeting a graduate provides the chance to learn more about the GCTP, and may help when deciding whether to apply. An informational meeting may also provide the Admissions Committee with additional information about applicants because the alumnus will send the office a short note about the meeting, which will be included in the application file.
Meeting a graduate does not substitute for interviewing with members of the Admissions Committee. Interviews with the Admissions Committee are held by invitation only.
To meet a graduate in one of the following locations, please contact our office to obtain contact information for a graduate:
Lori A.H. Erby, Sc.M, Ph.D., C.G.G
Associate Director, Genetic Counseling Training Program
National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH
On receiving a graduate's contact information, it is the applicant's responsibility to contact the graduate and schedule a mutually agreeable meeting time and place. The meeting can take place at the graduate's workplace, a coffee shop, etc. Meetings should take place in-person and not over the phone.
Meeting a graduate is optional. Applicants who do not meet a graduate are not penalized.
Meet a Graduate Locations
Little Rock, Ark.
Los Angeles, Calif.
San Francisco, Calif.
Saint Petersburg, Fla.
Iowa City, Iowa
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.
Kansas City, Mo.
New York City, N.Y.
Sioux Falls, S.D.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Meet Our Current Students
Class of 2020
Hannah Campbell received her Bachelors in Cell and Molecular biology with a minor in English Literature from Connecticut College. During her time there, she worked with Prof. Deborah Eastman researching genetic regulation of notch signaling during neuronal development. Outside of class, she enjoyed performing with and acting as musical director of an a cappella group. After graduating with honors, she went on to work for the clinical research office at Weill Cornell Medical College. There, she was a study coordinator for clinical trials of novel Lymphoma treatments. She also worked in patient recruitment for the Lymphoma Epidemiology of Outcomes (LEO) study, a longitudinal study evaluating the quality of life of patients during and after their cancer treatment. In her spare time, she volunteered with the St. Francis Xavier Soup Kitchen, where she trained volunteers in preparation for serving over 1,500 meals every Sunday to its guests.
Laynie Dratch is from just outside of Philadelphia, PA. She graduated from Colgate University with a B.A. in neuroscience and psychology in 2017. As an undergraduate, Laynie was a student representative and research assistant for the Department of Neuroscience and Psychology. She spent her summers as a research intern at the Penn Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) Center, where she worked on neuroimaging studies and was first introduced to genetic counseling. Laynie volunteered in a number of different ways while at Colgate, such as coaching for Let's Get Ready, which provides college preparation and SAT tutoring to underserved students, serving as a tour guide for the Office of Admission, participating on the executive board of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, volunteering as part of The Network, which is a club dedicated to raising awareness around issues of sexual assault, and more. Laynie is Zumba fitness instructor and has enjoyed teaching while in Baltimore.
Alexis Heidlebaugh grew up in the small city of York, PA. She graduated from Philadelphia University (now Jefferson University) in 2013 with a BS in Pre-Medical Studies and a concentration in Genetics. While in undergrad, Alexis completed molecular biology research, worked as a peer tutor and lab assistant, and participated in various academic, honors, and advocacy organizations. After graduation, she worked as a middle school teaching assistant, a caregiver for the elderly and individuals with disabilities, and volunteered as a companion at a children's grief and loss center. Before entering grad school, Alexis worked as a post-bac IRTA research fellow within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch at NHGRI and program coordinator for the JHU/NHGRI genetic counseling training program. During her two years at NHGRI, she also volunteered for a local crisis and suicide hotline. Alexis has always had an interest in working with individuals facing adversity in the health setting and is excited to pursue this through a career in genetic counseling.
Diana Phan hails from San Diego, California. She attended UC Santa Barbara where she was a Regents Scholarship recipient and studied molecular biology, graduating with Honors. As an undergraduate, she contributed to research on autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease as well as in Education. As a Regents Scholar, she helped organize her university's annual TEDxUCSB conferences. Prior to her matriculation at our program, she taught high school math and chemistry and volunteered as an advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. She currently serves as an executive board member for Student Assembly at Johns Hopkins SPH. Thus far, Diana has gained clinical experience in many settings with diverse patients: Genetics and Rare Diseases Information Center, Mercy Clinic Maternal & Fetal Medicine, Walter Reed Military Medical Center, Kennedy Krieger Institute, and Johns Hopkins Maternal-Fetal Medicine & Fetal Therapy. Her long-term research goal is to contribute to further development of genetics service outcome measures so that they better accommodate patient populations underrepresented in genetic counseling research.
Class of 2021
Liesl Broadbridge was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016 with a B.S. in Biochemistry and a minor in Graphic Design. While at UW-Madison, Liesl worked as an undergraduate research assistant, volunteered at the Children's Hospital, served as co-director of UW's peer tutor organization, and tutored organic chemistry. Following graduation she moved to Washington, D.C. to begin a research fellowship through the National Human Genome Research Institute in Dr. Paul Liu's lab studying Acute Myeloid Leukemia and other hematopoietic malignancies. In addition to lab work at the NIH, Liesl spent time shadowing genetic counselors, attending conferences, and generally learning as much as possible about the Genetic Counseling profession! Since moving to DC, Liesl has found community connections by volunteering as a grief counselor for a family support group in Prince George's County. Outside of school and work, Liesl has taught competitive dance in both Wisconsin and DC for the last 7 years and continues to take classes herself as often as possible!
Amelia Mulford is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area. She graduated from Lewis & Clark College in 2014 with a B.A. in Psychology and Hispanic Studies, after studying abroad for a semester in Valparaíso, Chile. As a senior in college, she interned with a pediatric genetic counselor at Oregon Health & Science University and developed an interest in late-onset genetic diseases. Amelia previously worked in a behavioral neuroscience lab, examining the effects of apoE genotype and environmental factors on brain structure and function in a mouse model. She was most recently a program coordinator at the health advocacy non-profit Genetic Alliance in Washington, DC, where she concentrated on maternal-child health and newborn screening educational initiatives. Amelia has volunteered with the Ronald McDonald House and with PRS CrisisLink's CareRing program, providing social support and referral services to at-risk adults. Amelia enjoys cooking, hiking, swimming, and singing in local choirs.
Stephanie Riley graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2016 with a B.A. in Psychology and Child Development and a minor in Biological Sciences. At Vanderbilt, she worked in Dr. Bruce Compas's lab doing research on stress, coping, and communication in families with kids with cancer. She spent her summers working as a one-on-one companion for children with disabilities in park district camps and volunteering at a Serious Fun Network camp for children with serious and life-threatening illnesses. Since graduating, Stephanie has spent the past 2 years working at GeneDx as a genetic counseling assistant on their Clinical Genomics team and as a member of the XomeXpress (rapid WES) team. In her free time, Stephanie loves to play board games, watch reality TV, read, and quote The Office.
Caralynn Wilczewski received her B.S. with Honors in Biology from Loyola University Chicago in 2013. During college, she worked in patient care at a hospital and participated in undergraduate research. She continued her education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she received a PhD in Genetics and Molecular Biology in 2018. Her research in Frank Conlon's lab uncovered a novel role for a chromatin remodeling complex regulating skeletal and smooth muscle type genes in the developing heart. Caralynn received numerous fellowships and awards in support of her research. While in Chapel Hill, Caralynn volunteered with the Adapted Recreation and Inclusion program teaching swimming lessons and facilitating social interactions for individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities. She also worked as a hotline advocate providing crisis counseling for a domestic violence agency. In her spare time, Caralynn engages in public science outreach, using 3D-printed models of congenital heart disease to share her passion for science and genetics.
Meet Our Current Students - Class of 2022
Meet Our Current Students - Class of 2022
Pre-Doctoral IRTA Fellow Genetic Counseling Training Program
Jada Pugh graduated from Auburn University in May of 2019 with a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies with emphases in Biology and Psychology. She spent her summers in basic research, as a Genetic Counseling Intern at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, and as an NSF Bioinformatics Fellow working with Dr. Nancy Merner to engage local minority communities in Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer research in Alabama. In addition to these immersive summers, Jada has served as a Client Advocate at Women’s Hope Medical Center, shadowed genetic counselors, and attended NSGC to prepare for matriculation. In her free time, she enjoys coaching and playing volleyball, running through Patterson Park, petting dogs, and days at the beach.
Pre-doctoral IRTA Fellow Genetic Counseling Training Program
Wes Solem graduated from Western Washington University (WWU) in 2019 with a B.S. in Behavioral Neuroscience and a minor in Biology. As an undergraduate at WWU, he worked as a laboratory assistant in the lab of Dr. Jeff Carroll, studying the neurobiology and behavior of mice modeling Huntington’s disease. Wes was a Donald A. King Summer Research Fellow for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA) and presented this research at HDSA’s 34th annual convention in Boston, Mass. In 2018, Wes completed an internship in neurodiagnostics at PeaceHealth Cascade Brain & Spine Center, as well as Northwestern University’s summer internship in genetic counseling. He also volunteered as a one-on-one peer sexual health educator at WWU and a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line. Wes enjoys cats, coffee and alliteration.
Pre-doctoral IRTA Fellow Genetic Counseling Training Program
Ben Akman is a native of Towson, Maryland. He graduated from University of Maryland at College Park in 2017 with a B.S. in Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics. Throughout his undergrad career, Ben worked as a research assistant, first in a lab at Johns Hopkins studying the connection between epigenetics and ovarian cancer and then in a lab at UMD studying the use of entomopathogenic fungi as a biopesticide targeting stinkbugs. After graduation, he conducted a two year post-baccalaureate research fellowship with Dinah Singer at the National Cancer institute studying interactions between the transcriptional regulation protein BRD4 and the oncoprotein C-MYC. Outside of the lab Ben was an officer for the service group Vintage Voices, which brought oldies music and good company to seniors in assisted living and nursing homes. He was also part of the Nerds in Harmony, an acapella made up of fellows and other scientists who work at the NIH. Ben enjoys birdwatching, going on hikes, playing video games and singing in choral groups.
Margaret Sidor, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral IRTA Fellow Genetic Counseling Training Program
Margaret Sidor grew up in a small town in the Hudson Valley region of New York. She received her B.S. from the University of Rochester in 2006; she went on to earn her Ph.D. in Genetics also from the University of Rochester in 2013. Her thesis explored novel roles for a conserved guanylate kinase in development and neuron function in the nematode C. elegans. After graduating, Margaret pursued her enjoyment of teaching through working as an educator at both the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester and the Detroit Zoo. More recently, she worked for the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program, which offers therapeutic riding instruction and hippotherapy to adults and children with disabilities. For several years, she has also volunteered as a crisis counselor with the Crisis Text Line. In her free time, Margaret enjoys hiking and camping with her husband in the many beautiful parks in the area.
Pre-doctoral IRTA Fellow Genetic Counseling Training Program
JaLisa Decker studied Biology at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina as a Hollingsworth Scholar, receiving her B.S. in 2019 with honors. As an undergraduate, JaLisa contributed to research at Furman on transcription factors in cancer cells as well as research at Samford University on vitamin transport in the human gut microbiota. She volunteered for Mental Health America’s crisis and suicide hotline for three years while also connecting others to crisis center volunteer opportunities through Furman University’s Heller Service Corps. In pursuing her passion for working with children, she served as a summer counselor to help children with various medical conditions have a fun and safe experience at Camp Rise Above. JaLisa shadowed genetic counselors and geneticists for several weeks at Greenwood Genetic Center and interned for four months with genetic counselors at the Cancer Institute of Greenville Health System. In addition to her professional pursuits, JaLisa enjoys exploring farmer’s markets, planning embroidery projects and trying out new recipes whenever she can!
Pre-doctoral IRTA Fellow Genetic Counseling Training Program
Nadjalisse Reynolds-Lallement received her B.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Oregon State University in 2018. At OSU, she completed an undergraduate thesis on age-related differences in brain activations during spatial memory formation. Outside of class, Nadjalisse was a STEM tutor for high school and undergraduate students and a student social media writer for OSU's science department. She has also volunteered as an advocate for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. After graduating, she worked as a faculty research assistant investigating the effects of multivitamin use and military service on cognitive aging. In her free time, Nadjalisse enjoys cooking, hiking, and exploring the Baltimore-DC area.
Last updated: February 26, 2020