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Emily Quinn Celebrates a Fresh Start as New Program Director for KGI’s MSGC Program


Emily Quinn, MS, CGC, was recently named Program Director for Keck Graduate Institute (KGI)’s Master of Science in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling (MSGC) program. Quinn has been with the MSGC program since its inception in 2018, serving as Associate Program Director and Assistant Professor for most of her tenure.

When the previous program director stepped down, it was clear that KGI students and faculty needed someone with a lot of intrinsic knowledge about the program and who had been around since its start to offer more stability.

Given that Quinn fit that bill, it seemed natural for her to take on the position. During the transition, she reflected upon her motivation to enter program leadership and education four years ago.

“It came from a strong desire to create change within our genetic counseling profession,” Quinn said.

“One of the best ways to accomplish that is to be involved at the level of whom you’re admitting into a program and what type of outreach activities you’re doing to attract a more diverse group of applicants.”

She was drawn to KGI and its emphasis on diversity.

“Over 90% of the genetic counseling field identifies as white female, and that’s a demographic I fit into,” Quinn said. “But that needs to change. Notably, that has not been the demographic of cohorts we’ve admitted to KGI.”

As Associate Program Director, Quinn worked closely with former Program Director Ashley Mills. While Mills managed clinical fieldwork placements, Quinn oversaw student research projects.

Over time, the program has grown from an inaugural cohort of 13 students to this year’s graduating class of 21. To manage the influx, they brought in new faculty and hired an Associate Director of Research, Dr. Nicholas Gorman, along with Interim Assistant Director of Experiential Education Melissa Randall Chan.

Quinn’s focus for this academic year is hiring her replacement for Associate Program Director, an Assistant Director of Experiential Education, and recruiting new faculty. While much work is to be done, there is much to celebrate.

“I am excited about our incoming class,” Quinn said. “We have 20 phenomenal students who are starting this semester. One wonderful thing about working in academia is getting to experience that fresh start each year.”

This fresh start is particularly appreciated considering the challenges that those involved in the program have experienced.

“2018 was our inaugural year, and people always say the first year is the hardest in education,” Quinn said. “Then 2020 brought the global pandemic that was truly unprecedented in everyone’s lifetime, and the transition to remote education for genetic counseling—a very high-touch, socially interactive profession—was challenging. Then there were growing pains for me stepping into this role and for the students adjusting to the change.”

With the start of the new academic year, Quinn feels a re-energization as she has moved from Interim Program Director to fully stepping into the role as Director.

“While I have the skill-sets and capabilities, what’s helped me is knowing that I’m not doing it alone,” Quinn said. “I’ve received a lot of encouragement from my fellow faculty and students as well as alumni. Everyone wants the program to be successful.”

Quinn is looking forward to working with the department’s growing team to devote more time and energy to mapping out and refining the curriculum. Above all, she eagerly anticipates connecting and exploring new possibilities with the program’s new cohort.

“They have great energy,” Quinn said. “They are thrilled to be admitted into a program that will help them fulfill their dreams and aspirations of becoming genetic counselors. It’s really exciting to be part of that.”

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