Raising awareness for ovarian cancer and its genetic causes is my (Flora’s) focus at Tell Every Amazing Lady About Ovarian Cancer – Ovarian Cancer Foundation (T.E.A.L.®). As an active Board member, I partner with genetic counseling students and our program staff to develop educational pamphlets, host workshops on genetics for the public, support community events, fundraise, and vote on medical research funding. Interacting with ovarian cancer survivors, their families, and other lay community has been the most fulfilling aspect of my volunteer experience. This foundation keeps my pulse on the patient experience, which is what matters most.
At T.E.A.L.® we have happily employed individuals applying to social work, nursing, medical, public health, and now for the first time, genetic counseling programs. We are proud of our staff who have gone on to clinical or administrative positions in various medical settings, knowing they have developed awareness of the ovarian cancer patient experience. Working with T.E.A.L.® provides unique opportunities well-suited for any future healthcare provider, especially genetic counselors.
Currently, I am applying to genetic counseling graduate programs for the second time and am also working at T.E.A.L.® as a Junior Program Associate. In the winter of 2020, I first attempted the genetic counseling graduate program application process. Surely, I thought, after completing a clinical genetics internship, acquiring crisis counseling experience, shadowing genetic counselors at Fox Chase Cancer Center, and even sprinkling in molecular biology and biostatistics research, I would have the right combination of experience to be accepted into graduate school. Only now I realize what I was missing – context! I had not learned to integrate my learnings in a real-world setting; applying the genetics concepts to people and delivering the knowledge to those who need it. All my prior experience was siloed, either genetics or counseling. Working at a cancer-focused non-profit has allowed me to combine and apply my genetics and counseling education in tandem, directly with people in need of these services.
As a Junior Program Associate, I have been leading an ovarian cancer patient membership program where I connect patients to our non-profit resources. This position has given me unique insight on the needs of patients and survivors, who require information on a variety of topics including mental health, nutrition, and genetics. Interestingly, I am starting to understand that genetics is only a small piece of a cancer patient's journey. My experience working at T.E.A.L.® is teaching me a more holistic approach and I am learning where genetics fits into the bigger picture of cancer care.
I am grateful for this non-profit experience because it has given me the chance to enrich my psychosocial awareness and broaden my appreciation for real human needs. I think working at a non-profit like T.E.A.L.® is a beneficial experience for any genetic counseling applicant.