Genetic Counseling Student Focuses on Outreach Education


GGC welcomed first genetic counseling intern in the Division of Education

Coltrane Beck-Chance headshotTraining the next generation of genetic counselors is an important task for GGC. Each semester, genetic counselors-in-training spend weeks in one of GGC’s clinical offices to gain valuable experience in real-life clinical settings. They practice drawing pedigrees, coordinate genetic testing, and explain very complex concepts to patients and their families under the supervision of one of GGC’s exceptional board-certified genetic counselors.

But for the first time, GGC’s Division of Education had a genetic counseling intern. Coltrane Beck-Chance, a rising second-year genetic counseling student in the Master’s program at UNC Greensboro, spent his summer working with students, teachers, and GGC’s team of instructors.

UNC Greensboro’s genetic counseling program requires students to spend one of their rotations in a non-clinical setting to gain exposure to the growing opportunities for genetic counselors to pursue non-traditional roles.  Many students work with genetic research teams or in a genetic testing lab, but Coltane chose education.

“When I started my Master’s, I expressed an interest in a rotation where I had the opportunity to teach, and one of our faculty members suggested Greenwood Genetic Center,” said Coltrane. “This rotation allows me to be exposed to clinical genetic counselors who are able to work in community outreach and education.”

Genetic counseling student giving a presentationDuring his six weeks with GGC, Coltrane has observed and assisted with hands-on STEM activities on board the Gene Machine mobile science lab. He also developed a presentation about the ethics of genetic testing with science teachers at GGC’s summer workshop and shared his journey to becoming a genetic counselor with high school students during GGC’s summer camp. He has also worked remotely on other projects including an educational blog about the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease and a review of GGC’s Counseling Aids book.

“We were thrilled when Coltrane reached out and proposed this rotation,” said Leta Tribble, PhD, Director of Education at GGC. “While most people think of genetic counselors in terms of their direct patient care roles, they are skillfully trained to translate complex medical information which makes them natural educators for other populations as well, including students, teachers, and other healthcare professionals.”

“There are so many transferable skills between education and working in the genetics clinic,” said Coltrane. “As I am presenting to a class, I am able to learn in real-time if my explanations of difficult topics are making sense. Tailoring to my audience is one of the most important things I will learn to do- to make sure that my patients are getting the most out of the session.”

“We rely on our team of genetic counselors to support our educational efforts, and many are involved in our outreach efforts such as leading activities for STEM events, lecturing for medical students, and working with our summer camps,” added Tribble. “We hope that this summer will prove to be eye-opening and educational for Coltrane, and will enhance his skills as a genetic counselor.”

“At my middle and high school, we did not have the opportunity for the kind of hands-on lab exposure that GGC’s programs provide,” added Coltrane. “I am hoping that my presentations and the genetics education that GGC provides will inspire young people to become genetic counselors. I look forward to these students being my colleagues in the future.”

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