The OAGC Web Design and Marketing Subcommittee is proud to launch our quarterly Member Spotlight beginning with one of our longest practicing colleagues, Betsy Schmalz. Read on to learn more about Betsy’s journey in the genetic counseling field and see her advice for newcomers. Be sure to check back next quarter for our next member spotlight!
Tell us a little about your time as a genetic counselor:
In June, I will have been practicing for 36 years. My first genetic counseling job was in 1985 at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Some fun facts: we did not have a molecular geneticist until 1987. When he joined our team, we all wondered what his role would be (little did we know!). Dysmorphology was key to our pediatric genetics clinics. We used special paper and an “invisible ink” pad to document the dermatoglyphics for each of our pediatric patients. We believed that loops, whorls, and arches were very meaningful. In the prenatal clinic, we tested many parents for “double satellites” because, at the time, there was thought to be a correlation with an increased risk for nondisjunction. We have come a long way since 1985!
In the 1980’s and early 1990’s we had less than 12 attendees at the Ohio Genetic Counselor meetings. Back then, the meetings were much more casual. Lunch was typically a pot-luck event. The group was so small we could get together at Snow Trails for a ski weekend. At the time, Nationwide Children’s Hospital had a Genetics outreach clinic in Mansfield. Shirley Krueger was the genetic counselor who hosted the ski outings! Once, we met for a nice outdoor summer meeting at Lake Mohawk near Canton. Judy Betts, Aultman Hospital genetic counselor, hosted that meeting.
What led you to a career in genetic counseling?
I fell in love with an undergraduate Human Genetics course at the University of Cincinnati.
What aspect of genetic counseling do you find the most satisfying?
I really enjoy connecting with the patients and families. Working in the pediatric/adult setting, it is especially satisfying to share with a family we have finally identified a genetic explanation for their child’s clinical features. Some of our families started their genetics journey over 20 years ago. They are thrilled to now have a name for their child’s condition, the opportunity to connect with other families, and sometimes, the opportunity for a treatment or enrollment in a clinical trial.
In five years, what changes do you see occurring in the field of genetic counseling?
I hope respect for the expertise and utility of genetic counselors will continue to grow. I hope genetic counselors will continue to have more and more opportunities.
What advice would you give a new genetic counseling graduate?
Go into the field with an open mind! You just might find your niche.
If you could not be a genetic counselor, what career would you pursue?
If I were not a genetic counselor, I would definitely pursue a career in art. I enjoy drawing, painting, and designing as a hobby.
Be sure to check back next quarter for our next member spotlight! If you are interested in participating in an upcoming Member Spotlight or would like to nominate a fellow genetic counselor, please contact the OAGC Web Design and Marketing subcommittee at OAGCmarketing@ohiogenetics.org.