This is the fifth installment in our series, “Trailblazing Genetic Counselors”, in which we highlight genetic counselors who are pioneers in the field. Genetic counselors are health professionals with specialized graduate degrees and experience in the areas of medical genetics and counseling. Genetic counseling is a rapidly growing field offering professionals a wide range of opportunities, which we explore in this series. Learn more on the National Society of Genetic Counselors’ new website,

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 Photo Credit:  University at Albany

Photo Credit: University at Albany

Karen Greendale, MA, CGC, @KarenGreendale, is a seasoned genetic counselor and was active in the field’s infancy. She received her master’s degree in Behavior Genetics from the University of Colorado in 1977 and was board certified in genetic counseling by the American Board of Medical Genetics in 1982. Greendale was a practicing genetic counselor focusing on reproductive and pediatric genetics at the University of Colorado, the George Washington University Medical Center and the Albany Medical Center.

She is a former President of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) and has been a member of its various committees. During the year she was president she chaired a collaborative group known as the Council of Medical Genetics Organizations (COMGO). Greendale has also participated in numerous American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG) committees and special interest groups, and chaired their Quality Assurance SIG for several years. She served on the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on “Genomics and the Public’s Health in the 21st Century” and was a founding editorial board member of the ACMG journal, Genetics in Medicine.

Her involvement with public health genetics/genomics started at the NYS Department of Health in 1988. In her last position there, she was the Director of Cancer Support and Survivorship Initiatives in the Cancer Services Program, focusing on ovarian cancer, cancer genetics and cancer survivorship. Since retiring from the NYS Department of Health in 2012, she has acted as a consultant on projects for the CDC Office of Public Health Genomics, the Familial Hypercholesterolemia Foundation, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, To Life! (a Capital Region breast cancer educational and advocacy group) and HeritX, a forward-thinking inherited cancer prevention research organization focusing on BRCA-related cancers.  A three-time breast cancer survivor with a BRCA mutation, Greendale is passionate about staying involved in this cause.


 Photo Credit:  Colleen's LinkedIn Profile

Photo Credit: Colleen’s LinkedIn Profile

Colleen Caleshu, MS, LCGC, @colleencaleshu, is a Genetic Counselor and Clinical Assistant Professor at Stanford Center for Inherited Cardiovascular Disease.

She is a leader in the cardiovascular genetic counseling field with over 20 peer reviewed publications in the field. She entered the field at a time when there were only ~ 10 cardiovascular genetic counselors in the country. Caleshu leads seven cardiovascular genetic counselors at Stanford Center for Inherited Cardiovascular Disease. Before joining Stanford, Caleshu was a Genetic Counselor and Assistant Clinical Professor at The University of California, San Francisco. She has spoken at various national and international cardiovascular conferences.

Caleshu received the 2016 NSGC Outstanding Volunteer Award. Her exceptional volunteerism includes her work with the ClinGen Cardiovascular Domain Working Group and Sudden Death in the Young (SDY) Case Registry. Within NSGC Caleshu was a co-chair and is current member of the Cardiovascular SIG, where she founded the education subgroup. 

This past year, she was the vice-chair of the Education Committee. Having excellent mentors throughout her career is what inspired her to join the NSGC mentor program herself.

She received her B.S. in biochemistry from The University of British Columbia followed by her  masters in genetic counseling from Johns Hopkins University and the National Human Genome Research Institute.

 Photo Credit:  Kristen's LinkedIn Profile

Photo Credit: Kristen’s LinkedIn Profile

Kristen Mahoney Shannon, MS, LCGC, is a Senior Genetic Counselor and the Director of Center for Cancer Risk Assessment at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center.

She has been with Massachusetts General Hospital for 20 years. The team of 10 genetic counselors she oversees helps to identify families that may have a hereditary cancer syndrome and, when indicated, provides genetic testing, screening and support. Over the last two decades, Shannon has had many publications in the fields of cancer genetics and cancer genetic counseling. As an educator, she worked as an adjunct instructor and lecturer for the genetic counseling program at Brandeis University and Boston University, respectively.

Shannon is active in multiple committees in NSGC, a member of the NCCN Genetic/Familial High-Risk Assessment: Breast and Ovarian panel, and had a key role in the Massachusetts Genetic Counselors Licensure task force, and for eight years was a part in the Massachusetts Board of Licensure for Genetic Counselors.

She received her B.A. from College of the Holy Cross, followed by her master’s in Human Genetics from Sarah Lawrence College.

Check back for the next episode of “Trailblazing Genetic Counselors” and read our previous episodes hereHave a colleague that should be highlighted in our series? Tweet us at @mygenecounsel