To celebrate the first Genetic Counseling Awareness Day on November 9, 2017, My Gene Counsel’s CEO and President, Ellen Matloff, presented as the inaugural speaker for the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) webinar event. Here is a recap of a few career challenges she shared and her call to action for fellow genetic counselors. You can watch the full webinar here.

Matloff shared her personal genetic counseling career trajectory, highlighting her successes, but more importantly, her failures and challenges. A major hurdle was trailblazing the fight against gene patents. It began with a harsh journal rejection for Ellen, but ended with a unanimous Supreme Court case win as part of the ACLU case.

Her patient advocacy efforts continue today. A main focus is the accurate interpretation of genetic results for all patients. Her clinical group noted that many patients were receiving genetic testing without the involvement of a certified genetic counselor, resulting in misinterpretation of their results. This led to unnecessary surgeries and late-stage cancer diagnoses in multiple patients. Just a few weeks ago, an Oregon woman made national news sharing her misinterpreted genetic test results, which lead to unnecessary surgeries. Matloff commented on the case and offered insight on how patients can prevent their own genetic test results from being misinterpreted.

Unfortunate and preventable cases like these inspired her to address these issues by founding a new company, My Gene Counsel. My Gene Counsel provides a scalable platform for patients and providers to receive digital genetic counseling, paired with their genetic test results. The evidence-based, fully referenced streams of information are easy to understand, for both patients and providers. Push notifications are sent when variants are reclassified, as clinical information updates, and when clinical trial opportunities become available.

Matloff’s experiences have provided her with insight on how genetic counselors must position themselves as leaders, in order for the profession to move forward. Below are some of the key topics and takeaways she covered in the webinar.

  • Why genetic counselors must lead the genomics revolution
    • Genetic counselors are critical to maximize the potential of genetic testing and to minimize harm
    • Genetic counselors have the unique skill set necessary to make this happen
  • What can we do collectively to drive the field forward?
    • Measure and assert our value
    • Expand our skill set outside of genetics
    • Become more business savvy
    • We need the NSGC and others to offer CEUs in business, marketing, accounting, and administration as we sharpen our skills – This would be a fantastic master’s degree project or grant!
    • For those of you in a position to do so, offer free CEUs to genetic counselors on these topics
    • Expand our skill set within genomics
    • Flex with changes to innovate and lead
    • Strategize ways to collaboratively pool our resources, experiences, approaches, and materials
  • What can we do individually?
    • Internalize your own value
    • Stand up for yourself, stand up for all of us
    • Identify yourself as a genetic counselor first
    • Attract the best students and a diverse range of students
    • Negotiate for higher salaries and better terms
    • Support other genetic counselors
    • Support companies that value genetic counselors – Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn; share, retweet, and comment
    • Support and work with patient advocates – They are perhaps our most valuable assets; follow them, share their content, invite them to meetings, and hire them as consultants
    • Start and join online conversations – Include the genetic counseling chat hashtag #gcchat and #IAmAGeneticCounselor; follow our Twitter List with 800+ genetic counselors and genetic counseling institutions (email us to be added)

Matloff closed the presentation with Robert Frost’s famous quote: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” This quote has resonated with Matloff and inspired her to add her own twist: “Sometimes neither of the existing paths work. It is then that you take out your machete and cut a third path.” We ask all genetic counselors to join us by grabbing your machetes to help us cut the third path together.

To view the webinar, click here.