A career in genetic counselling driven by co-op

Danielle Lebowitz, a fourth-year Health Sciences co-op student, shares her positive experience working as a genetic counselling assistant and how her patients have made the difference in her hopes of transforming it into a full-time career.


1. What year and program are you in?

I am in my 4A term in the School of Public Health Science's co-op program. 


2. Who is your employer?    

The Cancer Genetics and High-Risk Program at Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre.

Danielle Lebowitz.

3. What are your responsibilities in the workplace and what does your work entail?

I am a genetic counsellor assistant for my 8-month co-op. I am responsible for collecting our patient’s family cancer histories and creating family pedigrees. Once their pedigrees are created, I book the patients into the clinic to see a genetic counsellor, in order to be offered genetic testing. I am also able to observe genetic counselling sessions for hereditary cancer syndromes and participate in a journal club where every other month I present a new relevant research article in the field to the team.


4. What has been the highlight of your current work term?

What I love most about this role is interacting with the patients.  I have the privilege of being the first person to contact them about their next steps. The joy, excitement and gratitude I hear every day makes me proud of my role because I can feel how I am impacting others and participating in true preventative medicine.


5. How do you think this experience and/or your previous co-ops have helped you develop yourself?

I hope to one day become a genetic counsellor. This co-op has not only helped me develop my knowledge of the field but as well as my confidence to be successful in the role. I have learned the importance of asking questions in order to gain understanding. There is so much to learn and so many ways to grow, so it is important to never take opportunities for granted. Although it can be intimidating to ask questions, my co-workers have demonstrated their belief in how each member of the clinic’s team is essential for our collective success and therefore encourage seeking deeper understanding in the field and role.


6. How did you overcome challenges during this work term and/or previous ones?

The clinic is extremely busy and I have had to utilize my prioritization, time management and detail orientation skills to overcome challenges during the work term. It is easy to be overwhelmed and stressed by the amount of work that needs to be done but I always try to take a step back, breathe and create a plan on how to move forward.


If you want to follow Danielle as she finishes her degree and begins her career, follow her on LinkedIn!

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