MGC SCIENCE CLUB HOSTS LECTURE ON “STUDY OF GENETICS”
(Cochran, GA) – Middle Georgia College recently hosted Dr. Cecelia Bellcross, a genetic counselor from Emory University’s Genetics Counseling Program. Dr. Bellcross spoke to students and faculty members about the study of genetics as well as the field of genetics counseling. The event was sponsored by the MGC Science Club.
There has been an explosion in genetics, the study of genes, since 1981, especially with the Human Genome Project, said Dr. Bellcross. Completed in 2003, the 13 year project’s goal was to identify all the genes in human DNA. “It was a big deal to try and sequence all the genes,” said Dr. Bellcross. “Although it raised more questions than answers, it was a good starting point.”
Although there are several different types of genetic testing, Dr. Bellcross’s specialty is in predictive testing, the testing of healthy people to see if they’re genetically predisposed to a disease. Once people have been tested, genetic counselors help them understand the various implications of their genetic contributions to disease, said Dr. Bellcross. “It’s a blend of science and technology and working with people,” she said. “Genetic counselors come from many different areas, such as biology, psychology, and nursing.”
Genetic counselors work in a variety of locations, such as hospitals, clinics, and laboratories, as well as general testing companies and universities. They provide information and support, as well as identify risks and investigate problems, said Dr. Bellcross. “We serve as patient advocates, as well as provide education for other health care professionals and the general population,” she said. “We also engage in research.”
Dr. Sharon Mozley-Standridge, an Associate Professor of Biology and the Advisor for the Science Club, said, “Many of the students were unaware of such a field and the importance of genetics counselors to aiding in the research and presentation of information regarding genes and disease. Dr. Bellcross touched on several areas where genetics counselors have greatly expanded our knowledge and understanding of the genetic basis of many kinds of diseases like Huntington’s and cancer. She also emphasized the counseling aspect encouraging students who are interested in psychology to consider genetics counseling because of the need for genetic experts to help people grasp and deal with a particular diagnosis especially those who are expecting and new parents. Students said that they realized the importance of learning genetics no matter what part of the medical field you entered into and that Dr. Bellcross gave a very entertaining presentation in which they learned a lot about genetics. We hope to invite her back in the future.”