Friday, September 17, 2010


Many times in this blog, I have commented on how important leadership is for genetic counselors. We are a small profession. We don’t have the luxury of sitting back and letting others forge the path for the rest of us to follow. We all need to find ways to be leaders whether it is through the NSGC, our own institutions, or our own communities.

I recognize that not every genetic counselor has the confidence or the experience to begin leading. Some of you might be wondering “where do I even start?” If that question resonates with you, you will be glad to hear that the NSGC will begin creating a leadership development program in 2011. The details will be determined by the 2011 Membership Committee, but the proposed objectives are to empower our membership with leadership skills to become effective leaders in their own careers, the profession, and the NSGC. We hope to leverage the advanced skills of some of our more senior members to mentor others.

However, you don’t have to wait! There are many opportunities right now to start building leadership skills; the NSGC has always provided these opportunities as a benefit to its members. I started out helping to plan one session on marketing at the AEC in 1998. At the time, I knew very little about marketing, but my role was solely to identify some good speakers to contribute and coordinate the event. I remained involved with the AEC every year in one capacity or another, meeting genetic counselors across the nation and learning valuable project management skills. In 2002, I ran for an NSGC Board position and, to my surprise, won. I have no doubt that the network I had developed through my prior NSGC roles contributed to that opportunity. Serving on the NSGC Board from 2002-2004 gave me exposure to strategic thinking and great mentors as well as allowed me to enhance my project and team management skills in coordinating a regional meeting. The experience led to my decision to return to business school to enhance my leadership skills. I can’t help but wonder how much my first NSGC experience coordinating a marketing session contributed to my choice. It has all come full-circle.

Members often tell me that they don’t know how to get involved. I encourage you to start contacting NSGC leaders now. Some key resources are Committee Chairs and SIG Chairs, but Board members can also help direct you to the right person. You can find a list of these leaders on the NSGC website under the “About Us” tab under “Society Leaders” at

Be assertive. Don’t just send one email and then drop it if you don’t get a response. Pick up the phone or email again. Everyone is busy, but all NSGC leaders are willing to help you navigate to the right position for you. And remember, a true leader doesn’t wait for someone else to take charge of his or her own career.