The OAGC Web Design and Marketing Subcommittee is proud to present our next Member Spotlight! Meet Jessica Mester, a genetic counselor working in industry. See what she loves most about working remotely and what she would do if she could not be a genetic counselor. Don’t forget to check back next quarter for our next member spotlight!
What led you to a career in genetic counseling?
I always thought genetics was cool – I liked understanding how traits were passed on in a family and all the math involved in risk calculations. During college one of my (many) part-time jobs was as a teaching assistant for introductory biology and genetics courses. A professor I worked for noticed I liked teaching and asked if I had considered genetic counseling as a career. I had not, so I looked into it, liked what I read, and found a nurse conducting cancer genetic counseling at a nearby hospital who let me shadow her. From day 1, I was hooked – I loved how the career blended science, education, and social work.
What aspect of being a genetic counselor in the industry/laboratory setting do you find the most satisfying?
The work from home lifestyle is what I love the most. I’m just as smart in athleisure wear as I am in a cardigan and heels. I love making a nice healthy breakfast every day. I love taking little breaks and getting stuff done around the house. I love working with the windows open and my cat on my desk. I love not having to leave the house when we get three feet of snow overnight. And I love knowing that my hard work still has a positive impact on patients, even if I don’t see them face-to-face.
In five years, what changes do you see occurring in the field of genetic counseling?
Being super optimistic, I see genetic counselors being approved Medicare providers and having greater ability to start small, independent practices, like the random physician and dentist offices you see driving around any city.
What advice would you give a new genetic counseling graduate?
I’d tell them to a) not pigeonhole themselves and b) be nice. When I started out I wanted to be a prenatal counselor. I thought research was boring and that GCs who worked for labs were sell-outs. Fast-forward, I never worked a day in prenatal, loved doing primarily research work for seven years, and see how hard my lab colleagues work to benefit patients. With respect to being nice, I’ll just say that some of my coolest opportunities have come my way as a direct result of choosing to be friendly and helpful instead of taking a competitive attitude with others in the field.
If you could not be a genetic counselor, what career would you pursue?
If you could not be a genetic counselor, what career would you pursue? I’d run a bed and breakfast. A couple years ago I started an AirBnB with my guest bedroom as a “side hustle” and I totally love it. I love meeting new people, making them breakfast muffins using food from my garden, and helping them plan fun things to do in the Cleveland area during their stay.