Students pursuing a career in genetic counseling build unique experiences as they
prepare for graduate education. Each of our students has something special to offer
from their undergraduate, post graduate and extracurricular experiences as they merge
to become a team of learners.
Class of 2022
Kayla Blankenship graduated from the College of Charleston in 2020 where she completed
a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Molecular Biology and a minor in Neuroscience.
During her time there, she spent 4 years working in a lab studying MEF2C haploinsufficiency
syndrome, a syndromic form of autism. In addition to this, Kayla served as a peer
counselor for her undergraduate institution where she assisted fellow students through
various challenges they faced. She decided she wanted to become a genetic counselor
during her sophomore year of college. After this decision was made, she shadowed one
prenatal and one pediatric genetic counselor. She is happy to be back in the Columbia
area and is extremely excited to be a part of the USC Genetic Counseling Program!
Romy Fawaz is originally from Lebanon but grew up in Lawton, Oklahoma. She graduated
from the University of Oklahoma (OU) in 2018 with a B.S. in Biology and Biochemistry.
During her time at OU, Romy’s undergraduate research was focused on evolution and
natural selection of different fish species, with thoughts of becoming an evolutionary
biologist; that same professor later mentioned genetic counseling as a potential career
opportunity her junior year. After graduation, she began working at Harvard Medical
School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts as a clinical research
coordinator for Genomes2People, a highly specialized group focused on conducting research
in hopes to accelerate the implementation of genomic medicine and precision health.
She worked on large NIH funded research initiatives including MedSeq, BabySeq, and
PeopleSeq. Romy is ecstatic about being a part of the USCGCP Class of 2022 and to
be in a city with some warm weather for outdoor activities! She welcomes any questions
regarding the program.
Grace Hollingsworth is from Greenwood, South Carolina. She attended Wofford College
in Spartanburg, SC where she graduated in May 2020 with a B.S. in Biology and a concentration
in Medical Humanities. During her time in college, Grace volunteered at many different
organizations including as an orientation staff leader for incoming freshmen, a Young
Life leader to high school students attending Dorman High School, and a recruitment
counselor during Greek recruitment. Grace also spent a January term shadowing different
therapists at the Meyer Center, a school that provides education and therapeutic services
to special needs children. Grace worked as a Genetics Laboratory Teaching Assistant
during her senior year of college while she conducted research on cell regulation
of Breviolum minutum in low phosphate conditions. In order to complete her concentration in Medical Humanities,
Grace completed her senior thesis on the ethical considerations of human germline
editing. To gain more exposure to the field of genetic counseling, she shadowed a
prenatal genetic counselor at Spartanburg Regional Outpatient Center Maternal Fetal
Medicine. Grace is beyond excited to be a part of USC’s Genetic Counseling Class of
Madeline Ladouceur is originally from Whitby in Ontario, Canada. She graduated from
The University of Western Ontario in April 2020 with an Honors BSc in Genetics. As
an undergraduate student Madeline volunteered with Let’s Talk Science, an organization
that sends university students to classrooms and community events to run STEM-related
activities with kids. She was also a volunteer with the Canadian Mental Health Association
Support Line. In addition to her work in the community, Madeline volunteered in Dr.
Anne Simon’s research lab focusing on the role genetics plays in the social behaviour
of Drosophila melanogaster. Madeline gained exposure to the field of genetic counseling
through her work as a laboratory management program intern with eviCore Healthcare.
This opportunity allowed her to speak with many genetic counselors about the field
while gaining valuable experience in utilization management. Madeline is thankful
and appreciative of all of her support networks and is excited to begin her next chapter
with USC’s Genetic Counseling Class of 2022.
Corinne Locke graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2017 with a B.S. in
Biology and a Minor in Dance. While in college she was initiated as a member of the
national honor society Phi Kappa Phi. She completed her honors thesis A Study of Pain, Experiential Avoidance, and Emotions in Different Skill Levels of
Ballet Dancers and graduated with honors. After graduating, Corinne volunteered as a crisis counselor
for Women Escaping a Violent Environment (WEAVE). She then worked at Prenatal Diagnosis
of Northern California as a genetic counseling assistant helping women with high risk
pregnancies. She also volunteered at University of California, Davis in the Division
of Genomic Medicine for a year, working in the metabolic clinic, precision medicine
clinic and newborn screening. For two summers, she enjoyed volunteering for the Special
Olympics. The following year, she worked as a genetic counseling assistant in the
Hereditary Cancer Program at University of California, Davis. To gain more exposure
to the field, she shadowed a genetic counselor at Emory Genetic Lab and a prenatal
counselor in Ohio. Corinne is excited to move all the way to South Carolina to be
a part of the USC Genetic Counseling program! She is happy to answer any questions
about the program or the application process.
Megan Michalski is from Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated from Clemson University
in May 2020 with a B.S. in Genetics and minors in Psychology and Spanish Studies.
While attending Clemson, Megan was involved in Clemson LIFE which is a program dedicated
to providing college education and teaching independence to individuals with intellectual
disabilities. She is grateful for the friendships she made with the students while
acting as a classroom assistant tutoring them in math skills, life skills, and self-advocacy.
Megan was also a volunteer at Mental Health America - Greenville, where she was a
crisis-line counselor and phone operator helping individuals through a variety of
crises. The summer after her freshman year, Megan traveled on a medical mission trip
to Costa Rica to learn of health disparities in the world, aid the community in Costa
Rica, and expand her Spanish knowledge. In the summer of 2019, she studied microbiology
in Poland, where she explored her familial heritage and perfected her native Polish
language. Megan is so excited to be a part of the UofSC Genetic Counseling Class of
Rachel Nicely is originally from Woodbridge, VA and graduated from Virginia Commonwealth
University in May 2018 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Psychology. During her
undergraduate career, she began volunteering as a Sexual Assault Victim Advocate with
Action in Community Through Service, a local non-profit organization aiming to serve residents
of Prince William County. During her senior year she conducted undergraduate research
in the Prosser laboratory, studying a candidate suppressor gene for an ALS-related
phenotype. Shortly after graduating she accepted a position at GeneDx working as a
Genetic Counseling Assistant in the Neurogenetics department. There, she aided both
neurogenetics and mitochondrial/metabolic departments and gained relevant knowledge
about laboratory genetic counseling. Rachel has been loving Columbia living and is
ecstatic to be a gamecock. She is happy to answer any questions about the program
or provide any guidance on the application process!
Allison Perez was born in Raleigh, North Carolina but spent most of her childhood
in Evergreen, Colorado. She graduated from Montana State University in May of 2020
with a B.S. in Microbiology and Immunology and minors in Psychology and Genetics.
As a part of her undergraduate experience, Allison was an active undergraduate researcher
in the Schmidt Lab. Her work focused on the biochemical synthesis of isotopically
labeled amino acids, antioxidant-oxidant interactions, and sulfur metabolism in genetically
engineered mouse livers. Throughout her time at MSU, Allison enjoyed getting involved
in the Bozeman community. Allison volunteered as a mentor with Big Sky Youth Empowerment,
working with teenagers in the Bozeman area to help them cope with their past and prepare
for changes and choices as they enter adulthood. Allison is so excited to be attending
The University of South Carolina and cannot wait to be a Genetic Counselor!
Mary Catherine Smith is from Sumter, South Carolina. She graduated from Clemson University
in December 2019 with a B.A. in Biochemistry and a minor in Biological Sciences. She
graduated with general and departmental honors in Biological Sciences after writing
her thesis on the anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects of extracted compounds
from Physalis peruviana and Vernonia cinerea Less. Mary Catherine participated in
the EUREKA! Honors Research Program in the summer of 2016 and continued her involvement
in research through Clemson’s Creative Inquiry Program for the rest of her time in
undergrad. The summer before her senior year she also participated in MUSC’s summer
undergraduate research program where she worked on cancer research, specifically targeting
oncogenic RAS mutants with monobody proteins. Starting her junior year, she became
a volunteer advocate for victims of sexual assault at Foothills Alliance. She is excited
to be a part of UofSC's Genetic Counseling Class of 2022!
Kenya De Leon is from Greenwood, South Carolina. She attended Clemson University and
graduated in May 2021 with a B.S. in Genetics and a minor in Spanish. During her time
at Clemson, Kenya participated in bioinformatics undergraduate research in the Wang
Laboratory. She worked on essential genes in cancer using WGCNA, an R package for
weighted correlation network analysis. She was also a part of the Rotaract Club, where
she volunteered with several organizations including Rise Against Hunger, Camp Spearhead,
Helping Hands, and Project Linus. Kenya is happy to answer any program or application
related questions that anyone may have. She is excited to be a part of the UofSC Genetic
Counseling Class of 2023!
Scott Dent is originally from Lake Forest, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He graduated
from the University of Michigan in 2019 with a B.S. in Neuroscience. During his time
in Michigan, he worked under Dr. Sue Hammoud to study the effect that epigenetic modifications
have on fertility. He also volunteered for the SafeHouse Center of Washtenaw County,
a shelter that supports victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. After graduating,
he worked for two years as a research coordinator for the ALS Center of Excellence
at the University of Michigan Hospital. In this role, he helped with several NIH funded
research projects focused on ALS, including an epidemiological risk factor study,
and a whole-exome sequencing study. His primary responsibilities consisted of conducting
research visits, handling data, and coordinating sample collections. Scott has been
preparing for the field of genetic counseling for many years now, so he is very excited
to be starting his education this year, especially at the University of South Carolina!
Sarah Dickman is from Cary, North Carolina. She graduated from the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. While
at UNC, she worked as a biology and chemistry peer tutor, an elementary school violin
teacher with Musical Empowerment, a community group leader with Cru, and an English
teacher to young students in Slovakia. Following graduation, she worked for two years
as a laboratory analyst for Ajinomoto Health and Nutrition, where she performed chromatographic
analysis on pharmaceutical grade amino acids. During this time, Sarah also enjoyed
volunteering for Crisis Text Line and for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.
She gained valuable knowledge about the field of genetic counseling through UofSC’s
online genetic counseling course, and by shadowing and interviewing cancer, laboratory,
prenatal, and pediatric genetic counselors. She is so excited to be a part of the
Class of 2023 and welcomes any questions about the application process or the program!
Annika Gadson is from Summerville, South Carolina. She graduated from Wofford College
in May of 2021 with a B.S in Biology and a minor in Sociology and Anthropology. While
attending Wofford, Annika was involved in a student-led Women of Color organization.
She also volunteered with the ARCH Afterschool Program, a program focused on serving
the underprivileged adolescent. Annika worked as a math tutor, an assistant to the
biology professors, and instructed dance classes in the evenings. During her senior
year, Annika co-led an independent study on Intersectionality and African American Feminist Thought, which focused on the epistemology of Black women’s experience with sexism and racism.
To gain more exposure to the field of genetic counseling, Annika spent a summer shadowing
cancer genetic counselors at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange, California and Banner
Health in Phoenix, Arizona. Annika is excited to finally be a part of the Gamecock
Nation and is looking forward to becoming a genetic counselor!
Hayley Granger is from Jacksonville, Florida. She attended Florida State University
where she graduated in August 2017 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Biology.
During her time at FSU, Hayley volunteered with Helping Every Little Person, Inc.
and Crisis Text Line. These experiences solidified her interest in working with diverse
populations. Following graduation, Hayley worked as a Psychosocial Rehabilitation
Practitioner at The Arc Jacksonville, counseling adults with intellectual and development
differences. She later worked as a Neuropsychometrist where she administered cognitive
tests to patients to assist in the diagnosis of neurological diseases. In an effort
to gain additional exposure to genetic counseling, Hayley shadowed a variety of genetic
counselors throughout Florida. She also attended the NSGC’s Annual Conference in 2018
and completed the ‘Genetic Counseling: Career for the Future’ Course offered through
the University of South Carolina. Hayley is thrilled to be a part of The University
of South Carolina’s Genetic Counseling Program, Class of 2023! She welcomes any questions
about the program or the application process.
Allie Paltzer is from Naperville, Illinois. She graduated in May 2021 from the University
of Iowa with a B.S. in Biology on the Genetics and Biotechnology track and a B.A.
in English and Creative Writing in the Honors College. During her time at Iowa, she
participated in three years of research under Dr. John Manak, studying the connection
between epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease in Drosophila melanogaster. Allie additionally participated in the Personal Genome Learning Center, an organization
that gave monthly presentations and community events to the public about current topics
in genetics. Allie was also fortunate to study abroad in a writer’s program Spring
of 2020 in Dublin, Ireland. During her undergraduate years, she served as the President
of the Alpha Beta chapter of Alpha Delta Pi, mentored younger women in STEM through
Women in Science and Engineering, and volunteered as a crisis counselor with Crisis
Text Line. Allie is thrilled to be part of the Class of 2023 and is more than happy
to answer any questions about the program or application process!
Liz Pancake is from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She graduated from Ball State University
in May 2021 with a B.S. in Biology and minors in Interpersonal Relations and Spanish.
During her undergraduate years, she worked with adults with disabilities through Easter
Seals Arc and volunteered with Crisis Text Line as a crisis counselor. Liz gained
exposure in the field of genetic counseling through shadowing, attending the INGC
conferences, and participating in webinars. At Ball State, she was the research lead
on a team focusing on identifying consanguinity and disease in generations of families.
Liz also led the Genetics Club and Pre-Genetic Counseling Club at Ball State, which
brought together a small group of students to learn about relevant topics and issues
in genetics and genetic counseling. During her Senior year, Liz completed her thesis
on how telemedicine has impacted the work/life balance of genetic counselors, which
provided valuable insight on the benefits and implications of this model. She is excited
to be in the USCGCP Class of 2023 and is happy to talk to anyone about the program
or application process!
Nisha Pandya is from Cary, North Carolina. She graduated from NC State University
in December 2020 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences and a minor in Genetics. Throughout
her undergraduate years, Nisha was involved with a student organization called MEDLIFE
that expands access to healthcare for low-income communities. She traveled to Lima,
Peru to volunteer with community members and local health professionals to help improve
accessibility to sustainable healthcare. Additionally, she was an undergraduate research
assistant for two projects in a neurobiology and genetics lab studying both genetic
engineering and stress coping styles. Nisha also volunteered in classrooms at the
Frankie Lemmon School in Raleigh, a school that is inclusive for children with disabilities.
When Nisha realized she was passionate about genetic counseling, she shadowed a prenatal
genetic counselor and interviewed additional genetic counselors working in prenatal
and pediatrics at UNC and Duke. Nisha is very excited to be a part of the USCGCP Class
Olivia Wilmarth is from Chesterfield County, VA. She graduated from Georgetown University
in 2020 with a major in Global Health and a minor in Disability Studies. During her
undergraduate years, Olivia was a member of the cheerleading team and an orientation
leader for new students. She completed her senior thesis on the implementation of
clinical genetics services in low-income countries, combining her interests in international
health and genomic medicine. After graduation, Olivia began working as a genetic counseling
assistant at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Epilepsy Neurogenetics Initiative
(ENGIN) program. She gained valuable clinical experience in this role while learning
about the genetic basis of neurological disorders in the pediatric patient population.
Olivia is thrilled to be a member of the UofSC GCP Class of 2023 and can’t wait to
see what the next two years have in store!