Janice Edwards is the Director of Genetic Counseling at the University of South Carolina.
Although genetic counseling is a relatively unknown field, Janice Edwards is looking to change that at the University of South Carolina.
UofSC is one of 34 accredited institutions in the nation that offer a master’s degree in genetic counseling. Edwards is a certified genetic counselor and heads the competitive program offered through the School of Medicine at the University of South Carolina. Edwards was initially medical school-bound until a college professor changed her mind.
“I knew I wanted to go into medicine. I was preparing to go to medical school until a professor said, ‘Janice there’s this new profession that I think you’d be good at’,” says Edwards.
In the early 1970’s a new profession called genetic counseling was born. The rise in developing medical technology allowed health professionals to better understand the complex science of human genetics. Today, the profession is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the second-best healthcare support job in the nation.
“Really a genetic counselor is a person that can translate for you, what your family history means. We all have individuals in our family that have genetic condition or things that run in our family,” says Edwards.
Genetic counselors have the option to work directly and consult with patients or follow a career in genetic research. For Edwards, it’s all about the patients. She finds purpose helping her patients through researching their genetic makeup and informing them about potential diagnoses.
“A genetic counselor is a translator…to help an individual of a family understand what it means to them,” says Edwards.
Gaining admittance into this program is very competitive. According to Edwards, each year there are hundreds of applicants for the genetic counseling program at UofSC. Analyssa Talas is graduating with her master’s degree in genetic counseling in May. She is one of just nine students in her class.
“It’s a very very competitive field,” says Talas. “But for me this was something that I always knew I wanted to do.”
While in elementary school, she saw a family friend struggling with a genetic disorder and that’s when she learned about what a genetic counselor is.
A native of Los Angeles, California, Talas was drawn to chasing her dream of becoming at genetic counselor at UofSC because of the school’s notoriety in the field.
“It often happens that when I call other genetic counselors, they say that they also went to USC. It’s comforting to know that UofSC has had such a long-standing program with many alumni connections working in the field,” says Talas.
According to Edwards, genetic counselors can specialize in many areas of medicine. She says the most common areas of specialty are prenatal and cancer counseling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, birth defects affect one in every 33 babies born in the United States each year. While genetic counselors cannot prevent them from occurring, they are there to counsel expecting parents and families through potential diagnoses.
“Genetic counselors are available to help families process through their thoughts emotions and how to move forward with potential treatments and medical management,” says Edwards.
To learn more about UofSC’s genetic counseling program visit: