Alejandra 2Alejandra M. Gomez

Major: Genetics
Minor: Anthropology 

Graduation Year: 2010

How did you decide on your major?

I chose Genetics as my major right from the get go because I was interested in learning about how small simple changes in our DNA can cause such drastic differences seen in genetic diseases. I was interesting in understanding about the disease processes from a molecular genetics standpoint

What did you like most about it?

What I liked most about my Genetics major was the wide range of subjects that genetics can be involved in from molecular genetic research, medication/treatment development all the way to patient care and management. At Rutgers we had opportunities to work on research with our professors and attend meetings hosted by the Association of Undergraduate Geneticists (AUG), about the latest topics in genetics and careers in genetics.

Alejandra 1What is your current position, what do you, and what do you enjoy most about it?

Presently, I am a Genetic Counselor at a Hospital in New Jersey. What I like most about my position is that I get to use my knowledge of genetics to work with a multidisciplinary team to help better guide treatment and patient care. Additionally I get to be part of our patient’s journey into the world of genetics starting from a diagnosis through medical management and even treatment in some cases.

What was your first job after Rutgers and how did you get it?

Once I graduated from Rutgers I went straight into graduate school for Genetic Counseling. Once I graduated with my masters, my first job was at a laboratory as a laboratory genetic counselor who would act as a liaison between physicians ordering genetic testing and the laboratory which would be performing the genetic testing. The position was one of the few available in north New Jersey where I would be able to use my new found skills as a Genetic Counselor and still stay close to my hometown.

How did you move from that first job to your current position?

While working at the laboratory I learned the ins and outs of how a laboratory runs and continued to learn about how genetic diseases can affect different patient’s. I attended a national conference hosted by the American College of Medical Genetics where I encountered a posting for a position as a clinical Genetic Counselor in a pediatric department which would involve much more direct patient care. I interviewed for the position at the conference that same week and was starting at my new position two months later.

Looking back, what classes or experiences at Rutgers would you point to as contributing to your successes?

My physics class at Rutgers challenged me in ways that I had not been challenged before. Thankfully our professor had such a love of physics and really wanted you to understand the concepts not just pass the class. He would hold weekly Friday review session where he would take the time to explain the concepts covered in class in a new way and also gave us more opportunities to ask questions. This class and professor not only taught me about the world of physics, but taught me about perseverance and that with hard work I could achieve great lengths.

I was also part of two programs offered at Rutgers that were integral to my success in the sciences and my drive to become a genetic counselor. The first program was ODASIS (Office for Diversity and Academic Success in the Sciences) which helped to guide me through the core course work such as Biology, Physics, Calculus, and Organic Chemistry. They offered a safe space to study with other students, and provided tutoring and mentoring programs. Everyone involved from the students to the tutors and the staff, wanted you to succeed and become a role model for and be a representative of minorities in the medical field, allied health fields and science fields in general.

The second program that helped launch me into my career path was not a program at the time but a pilot program that currently exists at Rutgers. At present the program is known as the Rutgers Genetic Counseling Certificate Program and is spearheaded by Dr. Gary Heiman, GCCP Program Director. At the time that I was involved it consisted of mentorship and guidance from the director about how to best shape your academic and extracurricular activities to apply for Genetic Counseling graduate school. The program also consisted of volunteering with a patient advocate/patient research program and experience shadowing a Genetic Counseling in the clinical setting. The program helped shape me into the best candidate for a genetic counseling graduate program, with the result being my acceptance to graduate school once graduating from Rutgers.

What advice do you have for our current Arts and Sciences students?

The best advice I can give current students is to not be afraid of asking for and seeking help. Everyone at Rutgers wants you to succeed and have the resources to help you get where you want to go. Hard work will be involved as well but with a great support system the sky is the limit.

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