This is the sixth 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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Beth N. Peshkin, MS, CGC, has been an active member of the genetic counseling community for over two decades with numerous roles at Georgetown University Medical Center. She is currently a Senior Genetic Counselor and a Professor of Oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Peshkin serves as the Education Director for the Jess and Mildred Fisher Center for Hereditary Cancer and Clinical Genomics Research. She is also the Co-Director of both the Nontherapeutic Subject Registry (NTSR) Shared Resource and Familial Cancer Registry.

As a research genetic counselor, Peshkin has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles, commentaries and chapters. Much of her research is focused on the outcomes of genetic counseling and testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer patients, including the effectiveness of telephone and internet-based genetic counseling.

Peshkin graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with her MS in Medical Genetics, and is certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC). She also earned a Certificate in Bioethics and Health Policy from the Loyola School of Medicine in Chicago. Peshkin has been involved with many National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) committees as well as other organizations in the field of genetics.


Debra Collins, MS, CGC, graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with her Master’s Degree in Human Genetics and started working at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She has been working there as a genetic counselor for nearly four decades and her current roles include being an hereditary cancer genetic counselor and the Co-Director of the Genetics and Neoplasia module.

She has been an active member of the NSGC, including being a past President, on the Board of Directors, in the Professional Status Committee and currently in the Cancer Genetics Special Interest Group. In 2006, she was awarded the The Jane Engelberg Memorial Fellowship 2006 Special Award for an online course for genetic counselors. The goal of the project was to teach genetic counselors how to compete in peer-reviewed grant application competitions. Collins also participates in organizations such as The American Society of Human Genetics and The American Board of Genetic Counseling.


Wendy McKinnon, MS, CGC received her B.A. in Biology from Kenyon College in 1987, followed by her M.S. in Genetic Counseling from the University of Michigan in 1991. Following graduation, Wendy started working at the Vermont Regional Genetics Center, based in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont, performing prenatal, pediatric, adult, and teratogen genetic counseling. Wendy earned a faculty position, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, in the same college.  In 1994, with the formation of the Familial Cancer Program, Wendy began providing cancer genetic counseling, in addition to her other genetic counseling duties.  In 2010, she transitioned  full time to cancer genetic counseling in the Department of Medicine.  Wendy sees several hundred cancer genetics patients a year, coordinates the institution’s universal screening program for Lynch syndrome, participates in multiple tumor boards and conferences, and takes part in ongoing research projects both at the University of Vermont, as well as collaboratively with other institutions.  Wendy has a number of publications on topics related to general genetics, as well as cancer genetics.  Her most recent publications relate to a study lead by Georgetown University on telephone genetic counseling for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer patients. Wendy has also coordinated a number of retreats for families with BRCA mutations and families with Lynch syndrome.  She was awarded Susan G. Komen Foundation Grants for the BRCA retreats and an NEGC (New England Genetics Consortium) grant for the Lynch retreat.


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