A Matter of Degrees | Victoria Raymond loved math and biology, but was advised against majoring in both. So she stayed undeclared until she realized a biology degree did not mean she had to go to medical school. There were other options in health care and research.
Clarity | “I did very well once I made the official decision to do biology and not pre-med, but then I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was taking Dottie Engle’s genetics course and doing a research project with her, and it clicked for me that it has a lot of math in it and combines two disciplines I really like. So I began thinking about what I can do in genetics.”
Ground Breaker | No one had ever gone into genetics right out of Xavier’s biology program, but Raymond’s research revealed a developing field in genetics counseling that combines the science of gene research with the humanity of patient care. The best part was it does not involve endless hours flying solo in a research laboratory.
Personalized Medicine | “It’s a fascinating field, a hybrid field where the genetics patient is the entire family. So if I find out someone has a mutation, it has implications for everyone in the family. That has shifted how we think about medicine. Genetics is the basics of personalized medicine, which is where medicine is going today.”
Job Ready | About 10 days after completing her master’s degree in medical genetics, Raymond started her new job at the University of Michigan in June 2006. She does genetic counseling with cancer patients, which includes risk assessments and genetic testing for them and their families. She also conducts clinical research studies and teaches at the medical school.
Celebrity Issues | The benefits of genetic counseling got public attention recently when celebrities such as Christina Applegate and Angelina Jolie decided to have double mastectomies because they learned they carry the BRCA gene for breast cancer.
Decisions, Decisions | “Physicians send patients to us wanting to know if there is a genetic risk factor for their disease, and if so, they treat the patient differently,” she says. “Genetics allows us to be more proactive with someone’s health care and make educated decisions. Instead of waiting for someone to become symptomatic and enrolling people in strenuous screening programs, this allows us to detect things earlier and to treat them earlier. We’ve seen a reduction in mortality as a result.”