Geisinger is one of the largest community-based health systems in the U.S., serving central, south central and northeast Pennsylvania. The institution has a long history of supporting research initiatives. Many of our genetic counselors (GCs) divide their effort between a clinical specialty and research or work solely in research through the Department of Genomic Health. Given this focus on research within our institution, different forums have been created to offer exposure to and training in various approaches (e.g., dissemination and implementation science and qualitative and mixed-methods research). It has been rewarding to lead some of these research and educational initiatives, and to see an expansion in research funding awarded to these efforts at Geisinger.
Geisinger initiated a population health genomic screening program in 2007, now known as the MyCode Community Health Initiative. Adults and children (with or without personal or family history of genetic disease) have received genetic testing results through this program. Numerous qualitative research projects have stemmed from MyCode, which have improved our understanding of these lived experiences. Given the quantity of faculty, staff, and students who were participating in conducting the research, Alanna Kulchak Rahm (PhD, MS, CGC) initiated an annual Qualitative Boot Camp in 2016. The Boot Camp provides a “crash course” in qualitative research to undergraduate and medical students (via Geisinger’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program and Summer Research Immersion Program, respectively), as well as Geisinger’s GCs, clinicians, researchers, and staff. The Boot Camp prepares students for their summer research projects and/or graduate thesis projects through didactic lectures and interactive training in data collection, methodology, and analysis.
The organization and facilitation of this program shifted to us (column authors and Research SIG Co-Chairs, Jessica Goehringer, MS and Zack Salvati, MS) in 2021, marking the first virtual Boot Camp opportunity. This online format enabled external students and researchers (including GC graduate students) to participate in 2022. Despite the recent revitalization of in-person meetings, the Boot Camp will remain virtual to allow attendance from an expanded audience and diverse guest lecturers.
Beyond the yearly Boot Camp, we had an additional goal: to create a new multidisciplinary meeting series. We envisioned a space that could act as a discussion forum for various qualitative methodologies, data collection, and analysis approaches, and where attendees conducting qualitative research could receive feedback and suggestions for their projects. In early 2021, this quarterly Qualitative Research Methodology Meeting series began. So far, expert guest lecturers have presented on numerous topics, including dyadic interviewing, rapid qualitative analysis methodologies, and qualitative analysis software tips.
As research GCs, we are passionate about strengthening and expanding knowledge of research methodologies and bolstering research initiatives, both internally at Geisinger and nationwide through the Research SIG. We encourage our colleagues to continue to grow in this area. Any GCs who are interested in learning more about research, networking with others, or growing their research portfolio are welcome to consider joining the Research SIG, and to attend Geisinger’s annual Boot Camp in June (email the authors for details)!
Jessica Goehringer, MS, CGC is a senior genetic counselor with over 20 years’ experience in the clinical, innovation, and research space. Her research and innovation interests center on alternate service and educational delivery models and improving the patient experience. She has substantial qualitative research experience and is a co-investigator on multiple on-going qualitative research initiatives at Geisinger, as well as current Co-Chair of the NSGC Research SIG.
Zack Salvati, MS, CGC is a genetic counselor with research experience in quality improvement, patient outcomes, implementation science, data visualization methodologies, and qualitative research methodology, while also co-chairing the NSGC Research SIG and a being a member on the Research, Quality, and Outcomes committee. He enjoys qualitative research methods and helps lead Geisinger’s Qualitative Research Multidisciplinary Meeting, providing a peer-to-peer platform to share resources and research goals.