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Senior Genetic Counseling Students, Class of 2017

Taylor Apostolico is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Society in 2015. At Cornell, Taylor worked as a research assistant for Cornell’s Infant Studies Lab on a long-term project attempting to define the relationship between the development of language and spatial rotation abilities in infants. In her sophomore year, she began working as a research support worker for the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research on various molecular and physiological experiments aimed at improving the root endurance of staple crops in the hopes of expanding their lifespan in harsh climates. Taylor also worked with Cornell’s crisis counseling program for two years as a counselor and student trainer for prospective new counselors. She was an active member of her sorority, Alpha Phi, and spent two years as a Panhellenic recruitment counselor. This summer, Taylor completed a pediatric rotation in the clinical genetics department of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and a laboratory rotation in the Division of Genomic Diagnostics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Throughout this school year, she will complete a cancer rotation with the Greenville Hospital System, a pediatric rotation with Carolinas Medical Center, a prenatal rotation with the Medical University of South Carolina, and a cancer rotation with the University of South Carolina Specialty clinics. She is currently working on her thesis, which aims to provide insight into women’s knowledge and perceived utility of hereditary breast cancer genetic testing and to identify both populations less likely to utilize these genetic testing services as well as the specific concerns these populations express.


sabrina anderson

Kacie Baker is from Jackson, New Jersey. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Maryland in 2014 with a double major in Biology and Environmental Health. As an undergraduate, she had the opportunity to do research in an evolutionary genetics drosophila lab, volunteer with an interpersonal kayaking program designed for veterans who suffer from post-war trauma, and study abroad twice in Ireland and Norway. During the summer of 2014 after graduation, she observed genetic counselors at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in cardiac, prenatal, and craniofacial clinics. During her year off, she also had the opportunity to travel around the world to gain new cultural and social perspectives. Genetic Counseling training has inspired Kacie’s passion for patient care and the growing field of clinical genetics. This past summer she completed a clinical rotation at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland, where she worked in both cancer and cardiac clinics. This was an incredibly unique experience that provided new perspectives on the field of genetic counseling and global medicine. She also completed a laboratory rotation at Mt. Sinai Genetic Testing Laboratory. Throughout the next year she looks forward to her clinical rotations, continuing to coach Team Strikers, a soccer team for children with special needs, and writing her thesis titled: “Exercise recommendations for Active Adults at Risk for SCD. Can I Continue to Exercise?” She feels thankful for the opportunities with the USC program but each day gets more excited to finally become a certified genetic counselor!


hanna andrews

Anna Childers is from Roswell, Georgia. She graduated from Wofford College in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Bachelor of Arts in French. During her time at Wofford, Anna worked as a peer tutor for French and a teaching assistant for introductory biology courses. After graduating, Anna spent one year teaching physical science to tenth grade students in Cangzhou, China where she gained many amazing cross-cultural experiences. Upon returning the United States, Anna volunteered to help lead Sunday school classes for adults with disabilities. During this time she also shadowed cancer genetic counselors at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Georgia. Anna spent her summer clinical rotation at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in the pediatric genetics clinic, and she completed her laboratory rotation at Emory Genetics Laboratory. She is currently working on her thesis project aimed at exploring the hopes, motivations, and desired outcomes of adoptees that have undergone direct-to-consumer genetic testing and is excited to complete clinical rotations at USC Specialty Clinics, Carolinas Medical Center, and Greenwood Genetics Center at Greenville.


devon haynes

Angela Douglas is from Lakeland, Florida. She graduated magna cum laude from Florida State University in May of 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, and a minor in Psychology. During her time as an undergraduate, she worked in a genetics research laboratory and as a Biology teaching assistant. She also had the opportunity to teach a "Freshman Interest Group" (FIG) geared towards science majors on topics such as campus research involvement, time management, and developing professional skills. She volunteered as a counselor at A Women's Pregnancy Center for two years, serving women and children undergoing pregnancy crisis. Her interest in genetic counseling began with shadowing a local cancer genetic counselor in Tallahassee. In the summer of 2014, she interned at the University of South Carolina, which broadened her counseling exposure to the prenatal and pediatric realms of the field. After graduation, she participated in a second internship at MD Anderson, where she worked closely with genetic counselors in the breast cancer department. During her summer rotation, she worked at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in prenatal and pediatric genetics and also completed a laboratory rotation at Emory University.


Melissa Racobaldo

Rachel Hickey is originally from Hawthorn Woods, Illinois. She attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Psychology. During her time at UIUC, Rachel volunteered at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana and also held an undergraduate laboratory position at the Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory. During the summer of 2013, Rachel interned at the Genetic Alliance in Washington, D.C. There she worked in the outreach division, persuading non-profit organizations to register for a featured online database, and organized web pages on congenital disorders to prepare for the launch of a new website for the Maternal and Child Health Program. After graduation in the spring of 2014, Rachel interned as a genetic counseling assistant at Reproductive Genetic Innovations, a preimplantation genetic diagnosis laboratory. There she completed delivery and frozen embryo transfer (FET) follow-ups, took charge of data entry, and composed summary reports, outcome letters, insurance claims and letters of medical necessity. During her year off from school, she also volunteered as a program coordinator for Gigi’s Playhouse (a Down Syndrome Achievement Center) and as a bereavement counselor at Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care. Rachel spent her summer clinical rotation in the Genetics and Metabolism clinic at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Her clinical rotations for her senior year will include cancer at USC Specialty Clinics, pediatrics at the Greenwood Genetics Center, prenatal at GGC Greenville, and cancer at Carolinas Medical Center. In addition to her coursework and clinical responsibilities, she is also working on her graduate thesis, which focuses on women with Lynch Syndrome and their satisfaction with the current practices of information provision.

Samtilta Tawde

Erika Jackson is originally from Eugene, Oregon. She graduated from the University of Oregon in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with an emphasis on molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, along with minors in Biochemistry and Japanese. During her time at UO, she participated in undergraduate research for two years at the Cresko Lab in the Institute of Ecology and Evolution. At the Cresko Lab, her various research projects focused on the effects of perchlorate on the endocrine system, allele frequencies of chromosomal inversions, and expression patterns of developmental genes important for craniofacial development, all using the Threespine Stickleback as a model organism. After graduating, she worked as a medical scribe under a reproductive endocrinologist in a fertility clinic specializing in assisted reproductive technologies. To gain more exposure to the field of genetic counseling, she shadowed a genetic counselor at the Center for Genetics and Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Springfield, Oregon. This past summer, Erika completed a rotation at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Oregon, in their general genetics clinic. Throughout the school year she will complete a prenatal rotation at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, a cancer rotation at University Specialty Clinics in Columbia, a pediatric rotation at Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, and a prenatal rotation at Greenwood Genetics Center in Greenville. Her thesis is titled Recipients' Perspectives Regarding Expanded Carrier Screening of Gamete Donors and aims to determine how much genetic carrier screening information an intended parent would prefer to receive about their potential egg and/or sperm donors.

Niamh White

Dana Mittag is originally from Westbury, New York, but has lived in the Midwest, Texas, and Western Canada. She graduated from Cornell University in January 2014 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences - concentration in Genetics, Genomics, and Development. During her time at Cornell, Dana was a teaching apprentice for Nutrition, Health, and Society. She also worked for Student Disability Services as an administrative assistant. Dana was able to shadow a genetic counselor in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in an adult clinic setting. After graduation, she worked at the American Pregnancy Association as a helpline pregnancy educator/counselor. As a senior, Dana is working on her thesis exploring the perceived utility of personalized genomic medicine in individuals with a family history of heart disease. She spent her summer completing pediatric and laboratory rotations at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas and is excited to complete clinical rotations this year that include cancer at Carolinas Medical Center, prenatal at USC Specialty Clinics, pediatrics at Carolinas Medical Center, and cancer at Greenville Health Systems.


Kristen Wiley

Alexa Prose is originally from Chesapeake, Virginia. She graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Biology in 2014. During her time at Virginia Tech, she was an active member of the Marching Virginians Flag Corps and Chemistry Club. For her junior and senior years, she was a teaching assistant for the undergraduate biochemistry laboratory course. She also volunteered at the Women’s Resource Center in Radford, Virginia where she provided crisis intervention to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. After graduating, Alexa interned at a nonprofit organization called Genetic Alliance, located in Washington, D.C. There, she worked on a project called Disease InfoSearch, where she was responsible for writing and organizing descriptions of genetic conditions that are used as resources for patients and support groups. This past summer she completed a prenatal rotation at the Evergreen Health Medical Center located in Kirkland, WA and a laboratory rotation at the University of Washington’s Center for Precision Diagnostics. During her second year, she will complete a pediatric rotation at GGC Greenwood, a cancer rotation at the Greenville Health System Cancer Institute, a prenatal rotation at USC, and a pediatric rotation at GGC Greenville. Her thesis project aims to explore how individuals at risk for hereditary diffuse gastric cancer make decisions regarding pursuing genetic testing for a CDH1 mutation and for pursuing a prophylactic gastrectomy. She hopes to bring awareness to this condition with her research.

First Year Genetic Counseling Students, Class of 2018

Lauren Desrosiers is from Vienna, Virginia. She graduated from James Madison University in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology. As an undergraduate, Lauren held a student research associate position at SRI International and worked on a chemical proteomics project aimed at determining mechanism and targets of the small molecule SR16388 in prevention of triple negative breast cancer progression. In addition to her scientific pursuits, Lauren was an active member of a number of musical ensembles, and took on leadership roles as a section leader in the marching band and Vice President of Membership for her professional music fraternity, Sigma Alpha Iota. After graduation, Lauren worked as a DNA Extraction technologist at GeneDx, a genetic diagnostic laboratory in Gaithersburg, MD. In May 2015 she transferred into a Genetic Counseling Assistant position, supporting the prenatal and rare disorders clinical staff. Her role included coordinating case management and aiding genetic counselors with clinical research projects. In her spare time, Lauren gained additional exposure by shadowing medical professionals including a reproductive endocrinologist, and clinical genetic counselors practicing in a number of specialties. She also worked at StemTree, a tutoring center in her hometown, and developed the high school biology curriculum. Over the past year, Lauren was fortunate to be able to combine her love of performance and enthusiasm for volunteer work by serving as a mentor at ArtStream, an inclusive theater company for adults with disabilities in the Washington DC area.


Lauren Eekhoff is from Hull, Iowa. She graduated from Dordt College in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Psychology. At Dordt, Lauren was a member of the cross country team as well as a tutor and teaching assistant for undergraduate biology classes and labs. Lauren spent a summer working at the University of Iowa in a lab that examined stress-induced changes to DNA methylation and the correlation to psychiatric disorders in a mouse model. She also volunteered for the Iowa Domestic Violence Helpline as an advocate where she provided services and counseling to victims of domestic and sexual abuse. To gain exposure to the field, she conducted informational interviews with multiple genetic counselors in South Dakota and Iowa. Lauren is excited to be a part of the USC genetic counseling program and would be happy to answer any questions about the field of genetic counseling.


Shandrea Foster is from Spartanburg, South Carolina. She graduated cum laude from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, a minor in Psychology, and a Leadership Distinction in Research. Throughout freshman and sophomore year, Shandrea worked as an undergraduate researcher assessing genetic risk factors within two different gene loci in people with BRCA1/2 mutations. This is where she first learned the importance of genetics and realized the role it plays in the outcome of inherited conditions. In her spare time, she volunteered in service events with her honor society and worked with the elderly as a certified nursing assistant. She became heavily involved on and off-campus by becoming a peer teaching assistant in an undergraduate physiology laboratory and volunteering at the Free Medical Clinic. Concurrently, she was selected as a Magellan Ambassador, which is a leadership position she held for two years on campus that advocated for student involvement in research. As a senior, she participated in independent study to research tumorigenesis in a colorectal cancer cell line until she graduated in May of 2015. To gain more experience with genetic counseling, Shandrea shadowed genetic counselors in pediatrics and oncology while working as a caregiver to elderly clients with physical and mental impairments. She also became a volunteer for Planned Parenthood with their patient advocacy program and still works as a clinic greeter to make sure patients are safe during protest days. She is beyond excited to be a part of the USC Genetic Counseling Program and cannot wait to see what the future brings.


Zahra Girnary is from Cary, North Carolina. She graduated in 2014 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) with a double major in Biology and Psychology and a minor in Spanish for the Medical Professions. During her undergraduate career, Zahra served as a Resident Advisor for three years, helping to facilitate first year students' transitions to the university environment. She also spent a few semesters volunteering at a nursing home for patients suffering from cognitive decline and at a middle school as a mentor for young Latina girls. After graduation, she spent two additional years at UNC in a genetics lab working on two exome sequencing projects, NC NEXUS and NC GENES. Her work involved delving into the published literature to ascertain clinically relevant data regarding disease causing genes and their various phenotypes, as well as conducting surveys on the sociocultural impacts of genetic testing. During her time with the lab, Zahra received the opportunity to present her work both locally and nationally at the UNC genetics retreat, and at the annual American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG) conference. Additionally, Zahra volunteered as a "Ready, Set, Baby" educator as well as a labor and maternity tour guide to expectant mothers and their families at UNC Women's hospital. Zahra was able to gain valuable shadowing experience in the cancer and ophthalmology clinics, which further solidified her desire to work in the field, and she is excited to embark on her career as a genetic counselor at the University of South Carolina.


Erin Huggins is from Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated with honors from Coastal Carolina University in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Medical Humanities. During her undergraduate career, she was a volunteer at the Grand Strand Miracle League, where she was able to help children and adults with differing abilities play soccer and baseball. This led to her involvement in the Grand Strand Down Syndrome Society, where she found her passion as a caregiver and advocate for people with Down syndrome. In addition, Erin was a volunteer crisis counselor for the Rape Crisis Center of Horry County, where she operated a crisis hotline and accompanied sexual assault survivors in the hospital. Her senior year, Erin completed her undergraduate thesis entitled Discrimination in the Era of Preventative Medicine: Physician-Patient Communication About Cancer Genetic Testing. Her research examined the relationship between patients’ social backgrounds and their likelihood of discussing genetic testing with their doctors. Erin participated in the Northwestern Genetic Counseling Internship in 2015, and shortly after began to shadow many genetic counselors and clinical geneticists all over South Carolina. She was fortunate to be able to shadow in cancer, prenatal, pediatric, and laboratory settings. After completing USC’s online course Genetic Counseling: Career for the Future, she discovered USC was the perfect place to achieve her career goals of becoming a genetic counselor!

Nicole Larsen is originally from Marion, Iowa. She attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology in 2016. At Luther, Nicole worked as a laboratory assistant for the Genetics course and swam on the Luther Swimming and Diving team. In her sophomore year, she volunteered at Great Strides, a therapeutic horseback riding program in Decorah, Iowa in addition to being an on-call volunteer for Northeast Iowa's Domestic Violence Hotline. She also had the privilege of working as a caregiver for a boy with Down Syndrome living in Decorah, Iowa. Nicole was able to gain more experience in the field through observations at various genetic centers in the Midwest specifically in lab, cardiovascular, and cancer genetic counseling. During the summer of 2014 she furthered her experience through an internship at Gundersen Health System in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. There she spent most of her time in the prenatal and pediatric genetics department participating in case preparation and observation of genetic counseling appointments. Nicole also worked in the healthcare field as a Phlebotomist at Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah, Iowa during the summer of 2015.

Sarah Nimrichter is from Johnson City, Tennessee. She graduated summa cum laude from Austin Peay State University in 2014 with a BS in biology and a minor in chemistry. During her time at APSU, she worked as a student aid for the plant physiology professor. She also worked as a peer mentor in the APSU 1000 course where she helped acclimate incoming freshman to college life. She was active in the honors program, SGA, and her sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, where she served in several leadership positions, including Chapter President. During her gap years, she began an internship at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond as the development intern, which led to working as the development assistant and later the guest services coordinator. In this role she coordinated family stays, served as a resource and liaison for families during their stay, and oversaw daily house operations to ensure a comfortable experience for families with hospitalized children. To gain experience related to the genetic counseling field, she completed an internship at Northwestern University, shadowed genetic counselors in a general genetics clinic and prenatal setting, and volunteered as a counselor at a pregnancy resource center.

Christopher Spencer is from Greensboro, North Carolina. He graduated in 2013 from the University of Chapel Hill (UNC) with a degree in Biology. During his time at UNC, Chris spent nearly two years working as a research assistant in a laboratory studying the interplay between genetics, evolution, and ecology in two species of tadpoles. His work was recognized at the UNC Undergraduate Research Symposium, where he presented a poster and received a research commendation. He also spent time volunteering at Duke Regional Hospital, assisting medical professionals with a variety of clerical tasks while learning about different aspects of the medical field. Chris’s interest in genetic counseling began in 2014, when he had the opportunity to shadow genetic counselors at the Wesley Long Cancer Center and the Women’s Hospital of Greensboro. He spent a year volunteering at Hopeline, a crisis call line that offers nondirective counseling and resource referral for a wide variety of personal problems. These issues included general loneliness, relationship problems, domestic abuse, homelessness, and thoughts of self-harm, among others. To gain experience with individuals with disabilities, he volunteered at the ARC of the Triangle, and took a job as a direct care support professional shortly after. In this position he provided respite care and skills training to adults with disabilities. He also spent a year as a caretaker for a child with autism, for whom he acted as a mentor and skills trainer.

Ashton Wolfe is from Fort Mill, SC. She attended College of Charleston and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and a minor in psychology. While attending College of Charleston, she was involved in Relay For Life, where she held leadership positions for 3 years. As an undergraduate, Ashton also regularly volunteered at Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital, until her junior year when she continued her volunteering at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center in the Genetic Counseling Department. There she was able to gain lots of experience in cancer genetics, and logged over 200 hours of clinical shadowing. As well as her volunteering at MUSC, Ashton volunteered her time working at Charleston Area Therapeutic Riding, South Carolina Burned Children’s Fund as a camp counselor, and coached a youth soccer team. Ashton is excited to be a member of the USC Genetic Counseling Class of 2018!