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Inaugural Master of Genetic Counseling cohort graduates, poised for leadership and innovation

Posted by on Monday, May 17, 2021 in Uncategorized .

by Emma Mattson

Inaugural Masters of Genetic Counseling cohort

“It’s so hard to believe that these last two years have gone by so fast.”

Gianna Petrelli
Gianna Petrelli

That’s MGC graduate and future genetic counselor Gianna Petrelli, one of the five members of the inaugural MGC class who proudly walked across the Vanderbilt commencement stage this weekend.

It’s been two years since we welcomed the first MGC class to Vanderbilt with open arms. Now, after completing rigorous academic and clinical training, these five trainees are ready to bring new energy and innovative perspectives to their field.

After six years of preparation, including two years of formal study at Vanderbilt, Petrelli said she feels well-equipped to take on the full responsibilities of a genetic counselor— not that that makes the challenge any less exciting.

“I definitely feel very prepared and very ready,” Petrelli said. “More or less everything that I’ve been working up to is coming down to this. I’m actually graduating.”

Kickstarting new traditions at Vanderbilt

Carly Smith
Carly Smith

For MGC graduate Carly Smith, being a member of the inaugural MGC class meant being able to set traditions for the cohorts that would follow.

“I’ve always placed value in traditions, and Vanderbilt University and the School of Medicine certainly have many,” Smith said. “Being a part of the inaugural class of the VU MGC program means being a founding member and participator in the traditions our program will continue over time.”

Even as the program curriculum continues to evolve, the standard of excellence set by the first cohort will remain the foundation for future growth.

“I am excited to watch how our program will grow and evolve as new classes bring different experiences and innovative ideas to the world of genetic counseling,” Smith said. “I know our faculty will reshape curriculum and training models to best meet the needs of our students and, most importantly, continue supporting the future leaders of the field.”

Getting to be a part of the inaugural program makes the graduation milestone feel even more significant, Petrelli said. After all, it’s a big moment for the whole program as well.

“I don’t feel like I’m just graduating,” Petrelli said. “I feel like I’m fully prepared to be a great genetic counselor, and that’s all thanks to [the faculty] and their hard work.”

Growing alongside each other

Emma Metz
Emma Metz

MGC graduate Emma Metz came to Vanderbilt expecting a world-class medical genetics education from her supervisors and professors, but she never expected to learn so much from her fellow trainees as well.

“My favorite part [of the past two years] is how much I’ve learned from my other classmates,” Metz said. “The five of us have really different paths in life. We all have different job experience, work experience, life experience— which has contributed to each other’s learning.”

Martha Dudek, MS LCGC
Martha Dudek, MS LCGC

MGC Director Martha Dudek echoed Metz, praising the cohort for the tradition of student excellence they began.

“Their contributions set a high standard for the students who follow,” Dudek said. “We will always be grateful for their adventurous spirit, patience and continuous feedback as we strived to build a program of excellence.”

Even during an unpredictable year, the five trainees displayed resilience and flexibility, Dudek said.

“Their perseverance, motivation and strength of character allowed them to conquer their studies and excel in their compassionate care for their patients despite adversity,” Dudek said.

Moving Forward on Parallel Journeys
For Chicagoland native Gianna Petrelli, Nashville’s unique character offered a jumping off point for the work she hopes to do as a genetic counselor.

“I was looking for the possibility to serve a vibrant and diverse community,” Petrelli said. “Being able to do that in Nashville has been really challenging at times but also so incredibly rewarding. I’m so glad that I came down to Nashville for two years for grad school.”

What’s more, the cohort’s experience learning and serving during COVID has set them up well to excel when unexpected circumstances appear again.

“Training during the pandemic has put a spotlight on the number of responsibilities each of us are juggling daily,” Smith said. “Through this period of time, I’ve learned to give myself and others grace when it comes to responding to communication, sending feedback or edits, and submitting documents.”

For Smith, who’ll be joining the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford this year, the flexibility she learned during the pandemic will be key for her work as a perinatal genetic counselor.

As for Metz, now headed back to serve in the Midwest where she grew up, Nashville and Vanderbilt have set her on a trajectory towards success and leadership in the field.

“I only hope that I can carry on and practice the skills that I have been taught by the exceptional doctors, genetic counselors, and other mentors at a place like Vanderbilt,” Metz said.

Learn more about our Master of Genetic Counseling program or request information