The 2016 Genetic Counseling Program Pacesetter Award was presented to Rachel Mills, a 2008 graduate of the MS Genetic Counseling program.
Since graduating from UNCG Rachel has been working at Duke University, most recently as Clinical Research Coordinator in the Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine. During her time at UNCG, Rachel completed a Capstone Project entitled “Methods of Educating Physicians about Uncommon Genetic Disorders: The Stickler Syndrome Awareness Project. As part of this project she developed recommendations for educational outreach to physicians and other healthcare providers about rare genetic disorders. She also worked as a Graduate Assistant for the National Coordinating and Evaluation Center for Sickle Cell Newborn Screening. Rachel made significant contributions to help us meet the project goals to evaluate and create educational materials for parents of infants that are identified with sickle cell disease or trait by newborn screening. Through this work, Rachel gained a solid appreciation of health literacy issues, as well as skills in developing easy to read educational materials.
Upon graduating from the program in 2008, Rachel elected to apply her genetic counseling training in research-oriented positions, first as a Health Educator in the Risk Communication Laboratory of Duke Health Systems, a job she held from 2008-2010. In 2010 she joined the Duke Institute of Genome Sciences and Policy as a Clinical Research Coordinator I, and was promoted to Clinical Research Coordinator II in the Duke Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine in 2012. Her recent work has focused on issues related to pharmocogenetic testing, from the perspectives of consumers as well as pharmacists and other healthcare providers.
Rachel has clearly found her niche, and has been very productive as a genetic counselor working in researched-focused positions. She has 20 publications in peer reviewed journals in the past three years and is first author for six of these. She has also done eight poster presentations at national meetings including the National Society of Genetic Counselors, American College of Medical Genetics and American Public Health Association.
Students in our MS Genetic Counseling program complete a Capstone (Research) Project under the guidance of a Capstone Project Committee. Rachel has served as Chair of the Capstone Project Committee for four of our students over the past six years. In this role, Rachel demonstrated her skills as a researcher and as a mentor. We have been impressed with her ability to provide expert guidance and constructive feedback to students as they complete their projects. Recently, she offered to conduct a seminar about literature review and citation for our second year genetic counseling students. The students were effusive in their praise of this session. Rachel engaged them with her usual enthusiasm for sharing her expertise. The session was thorough, well planned and expertly delivered. Rachel has been an excellent role model for our students, and her loyalty to the program is much appreciated.
Rachel is also actively engaged in genetic counseling professional organizations and in community and professional education. As a member of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) Education committee she is contributing to planning the 2016 Annual Education Conference. She is also an active member of the NSGC Membership Committee where she serves on three key subcommittees. She has done presentations on cutting edge topics for healthcare providers at Duke, as well as more general presentations about genetic counseling as a career for audiences ranging from middle school to undergraduate students.
In the ten years since her graduation from the MS Genetic Counseling program Rachel has grown professionally and has established herself as an expert in cutting edge research that addresses issues in the implementation of genomic science to clinical practice. She has been a loyal supporter of the MS Genetic Counseling program, sharing her enthusiasm and expertise as a research mentor. Rachel is truly a pacesetter in our field and we look forward to having a front row seat as she continues to develop professionally and make significant contributions to the field of genetic counseling.
We were very pleased to nominate Rachel Mills for the 2016 School of Health and Human Sciences Pacesetter Award for the Genetic Counseling Program.