The University of South Carolina School of Medicine Columbia Genetic Counseling Program will have a new director for the first time since 2002, as its longtime leader, Janice Edwards, MS, CGC, has retired. A crowd of alumni, colleagues and friends celebrated the program, Edwards legacy on the program, and the 10-year anniversary of its endowment during a special event at Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens this June.
Edwards, who joined the USC faculty in 1983 and has been a member of the Genetic Counseling Program faculty since its inception, has spent her career educating and developing expert genetic counselors through her teaching and leadership, while she herself has cared for countless South Carolinians in her over 40 years of practice. Having served as the School of Medicine program co-director since 1999, and director since 2002, she has been an integral part of growing the profession locally, regionally and worldwide.
“We [the School of Medicine Genetic Counseling Program] were the first program in the Southeast, and it was really hard to recruit genetic counselors from the existing programs which were quite far away,” Edwards says. “It was a coalition of genetic professionals that said ‘we would do this together and make this happen’ and lo and behold, that is exactly what we did. It’s a long collaboration, that includes regional partners in North Carolina and Georgia.”
In addition to leading the School of Medicine program, Edwards also founded the Transnational Alliance for Genetic Counseling in 2006, an international network of genetic counselors. Through that network, USC’s students have traveled to South Africa, Australia, England and other countries, expanding the reach of the program and the profession.
“It’s really a treat to be able to tell you that our program is international through our Transnational Alliance. To think that our students are impacting on such a broad scale, from the roots from which we came, it’s phenomenal. I’m really proud of everyone that’s been involved.”
Graduates of the program laude Edwards’ leadership, guidance and friendship, and honor her impact on the profession.
School of Medicine Columbia Dean Les Hall, M.D., echoes those sentiments on Edwards’ contributions to the profession.
“It is impossible to overstate the impact that Janice has had on the field of genetic counseling education,” he says. “The program at USC is recognized as one of the strongest in the country. Beyond that, her national contributions have elevated the quality of genetic counseling throughout the United States. The legacy of excellence she is leaving will bear fruit for many decades to come.”
When asked to reflect on what her time at USC and the program have meant to her, Edwards says that it is all about the community of people who make up the program.
“What I think about when I think about this program is a stream of beautiful people that have been part of it from the beginning,” she says. “It's not just the faculty, but it's the students, and it's all of the contributors, the genetics professionals, and everyone that's come together and added to and made it what it is.”