Could you tell us a little bit about your educational background?
My educational background comes from a combination of my academic and professional experience equally. I attended undergraduate school at UC Santa Cruz and received my BA in Biology in 1991 where learning about the TATA box was a week-long lecture, nonetheless, I loved it! I moved to Mexico City six months after graduation. There, I trained and became an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher to adult students. I returned to the U.S. and transitioned as a Certified Medical Interpreter/Translator at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA).
What first got you interested in the healthcare field as a career choice? There are a lot of career options in the field -nursing, physician assistant, etc., what made you decide that genetic counseling was the right practice area/career choice for you?
One day as I was interpreting for a neurologist at CHLA, the patient’s older sibling told the doctor that he was starting nursing school. The neurologist said that was great but also shared with him the option of genetic counseling and went on to briefly describe the profession. I had never heard of this practice area in my life. Those few sentences were enough to take me into a non-stop search for information on genetic counseling. I requested to be assigned as the Language & Cultural Specialist in the Medical Genetics clinic where I met and interpreted for three amazing GCs. This not only reconfirmed my decision to pursue a GC master’s program but I was fortunate to have learned how to help families beyond reading test results through the voices of other genetic counselors.
What type of obstacles have you had to overcome on the road to getting your education and in particular in pursuing your Genetic Counseling degree?
There are a couple of obstacles I have needed to overcome throughout the process of applying to the MSGC program. The first one was reminding me continuously on why I was pursuing a career change at this stage in my life. I overcame this with not paying attention to time and redirecting my focus to the number of patients and families I will be able to help later on through genetic counseling. The other challenge was being a parent and a support to my daughter who was in high school at the time. Spending quality time with her whilst working 45 to 50 hours a week, volunteering at a domestic violence center, classwork and getting through the application process was a delicate balance. Her support and that of my other children, genetic counselors, family and friends, is part of what kept me on track. Acceptance to KGI MSGC program has been a great reward after all the work.
Once you decided to pursue a Genetic Counseling degree, how did you know that KGI was the right school for you?
I first heard of KGI during the summer of 2018 right before the MSGC program was launched. I met with Ashley Mills, director of the program, and what I thought was going to be a 15 minute informational meeting turned into a one hour exchange of ideas. I knew then that the program would follow the same dedication and personable attention.
Secondly, I was amazed to see the number of rotation sites KGI had affiliated with throughout southern California from leaders in genetic laboratories to clinics and hospitals. One of those hospitals was CHLA, which I am currently employed at as a Language and Cultural Specialist, and I know firsthand the quality of patient care which Keck-USC offer their patient population.
The other reason I am excited to attend KGI is the program itself. I learned early on that the professors are all genetic counselors and I believe they will not only teach the academic and technical aspects of the program but will also share their own experiences. I consider this aspect of the program invaluable in creating a cohort of compassionate genetic counselors.
What are you most looking forward to about beginning your Genetic Counseling studies at KGI?
I am really looking forward to learning in a structured environment again, albeit somewhat nervous. I am excited to delve into the field of genetics and be exposed to new research and advancement. I also look forward to meeting my classmates and to learn from each other during our two-year journey together.
What is one fun and interesting fact about you?
I developed and launched a language school in Mexico City focused on teaching English through conversation which is now run by my two sons with an average of about 25-30 teachers.