VCU Medical Center

Department of Human and Molecular Genetics

2018-2019

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Drs. Xiang-Yang Wang and Devanand Sarkar pose with their medallions which they received when they were invested with their endowed professorships in September. Dr. Wang holds the Mary Anderson Harrison Distinguished Professorship in Cancer Research and Dr. Sarkar holds the Harrison Foundation Distinguished Professorship in Cancer Research. Endowed professorships and chairs represent the highest academic honor a faculty member can hold. Two additional department faculty members who were invested at the same ceremony was Dr. Paul Fisher who holds the FNAI Thelma Newmeyer Croman Endowed Chair in Oncology Research and Dr. Jolene Windle who holds the Irene Shaw Grigg Distinguished Professorship in Genetics Research.

Virginia “Ginny” Pallante, a Genetic Counselor and instructor in the department, co-received the Enrique Gerszten, M.D. Faculty Teaching Excellence Award, the School of Medicine’s highest recognition for teaching [View Image]

Virginia “Ginny” Pallante, a Genetic Counselor and instructor in the department, co-received the Enrique Gerszten, M.D. Faculty Teaching Excellence Award, the School of Medicine’s highest recognition for teaching. She has always been an excellent teacher receiving the “Best Teacher Award” for the human genetics curriculum 17 times to date. Ms. Pallante is the course director for the M.D. Program and embraces new teaching techniques such as POGIL™ (Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning). She not only uses these techniques in her own classroom but also shares her expertise with her colleagues. As a former medical student states, “Ms. Pallante is the most caring and passionate instructor I have ever had.”

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Two Human and Molecular Genetics graduate students Dana Lapato and Amy Northrop placed 1st and tied for 3rd respectively in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition. 3MT is a research communication competition which challenges students to present a compelling talk on their thesis/dissertation topic and its significance using 1 slide and having only three minutes. A third department student, Javeria Aijaz also made it to the finals. Dana will be sponsored by the graduate school to compete in the Council of Southern 3MT competition in Knoxville, TN. The 3MT presentations can be found at the VCU Scholars Compass. Pictured left to right: Graduate School Dean Doug Boudinot, Dana Lapato, Julia Meade (2nd place), Ria Fyffe-Freil (tied for 3rd place), Amy Northrop and Associate Dean Mark Schaefermeyer.

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Ph.D. student Javeria Aijaz (right) receives the inaugural Jan F. Chlebowski Memorial Travel Award from the President of the Women in Science (WIS) student organization, Tanya Puccio. Dr. Chlebowski was a long-time Associate Dean of Graduate Education in the School of Medicine who passed away unexpectedly in 2018. He was also a founding co-adviser of WIS and a big supporter of graduate education. The organization chose to honor him by creating and funding a student award in his name. Photo by Erin Garcia.

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National DNA Day, April 2019. Faculty, students and staff celebrate National DNA Day, a community engagement initiative sponsored by the NIH celebrating the discovery of the DNA double helix and completion of the Human Genome Project. To celebrate DNA Day, the clinical team which includes our genetic counselors, genetic counseling students and physicians take a group picture before the weekly noon clinical conference. Pictured: 1st row: Heather Creswick, Dr. Hind Al Saif, Rebecca Zee, Quinn Hurshman, Yi Liu; 2nd row: Dr. John Quillin, Jordan Snajczuk, Emily Seckington, 3rd row: Meaghan Dwan, Danika Coulson, 4th row: Dr. Ray Lewandowski, Allison Goodwin, Allison Gossen, Jordyn Prell, Samantha Seymour, Mary-Beth Roberts, Wendy Ho, Laura Braunstein 5th row: Kayla King, Jessica Dagher, Allyson Derting, Sara Hunter, Joshua Barnhart, Alesky Caffo, Camerun Washington. Photo by Mary Rosenthal.

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The genetic counseling students are lucky to have outside experts come and teach in their courses such as Dr. Jane Juusola, Director of Clinical Genomics at GeneDx. She came to speak to the students on the use of exome sequencing in the diagnoses of rare diseases and conditions such as developmental delay. Dr. Juusola is an alumnus of the Clinical Molecular Genetics Fellowship program at VCU. You can read more about her work here.

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Eva Lancaster (far right) was on one of four students from VCU who was chosen to attend the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) advocacy program. The students met with staffers from elected Virginia officials after a morning workshop to advocate for science. Eva says, “I am specifically interested in promoting women’s and children’s health research and research into reducing health disparities…”. You can see more information about this program here.

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Integrated in the training of our genetic counseling students at VCU is an on-site molecular diagnostics & cytogenetics laboratory rotation/practicum. During this experience, students get hands-on behind-the-scenes experience preparing Fragile X and CFTR assays, shadowing variant interpretation and results reporting, and an in-depth exploration of PCR, next generation sequencing and other contemporary testing methodologies. Pictured left to right are genetic counseling students, Camerun Washington, Allyson Derting, Laura Braunstein, and Mary-Beth Roberts working in the lab.

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Genetic counseling students show their support for the Inaugural Genetic Counseling Awareness Day with temporary tattoos provided by the National Society of Genetic Counseling and the hashtag, #IAmAGeneticCounselor.

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Students have the opportunity to speak to various lay communities about genetics and genetic counseling topics for education, outreach and engagement. Genetic counselor, Allison Goodwin (right) is featured with students, Camerun Washington and Natalie Dykzeul, at a presention to undergraduates at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA.

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VCU Second-Year genetic counseling students historically attend the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) Meeting hosted every year in various cities across the nation. This meeting provides students opportunities to network, learn new insights from various speakers and support our national organization. NSGC 2019 was hosted in Atlanta, GA. Pictured are left to right, front row: Sara Hunter, Meaghan Dwan, Mary-beth Roberts, Laura Braunstein and Jessica Dagher; back row: Allyson Derting, Cody Carlson, Camerun Washington and Wendy Ho.

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