Genetic Counseling

School of Health and Human Sciences

Life at Lineagen: Telephone Genetic Counseling
by Mallory Sdano, Class of 2011

Mallory Sdano at Grand Canyon
Mallory Sdano at Grand Canyon

When I began searching for my first genetic counseling job, I thought that I did not want to work for a testing laboratory. However, in a wonderful twist of fate I ended up accepting a position with Lineagen, a Salt Lake City based genetic testing company. Lineagen provides chromosomal microarray analysis (CMA) and fragile X syndrome testing for individuals with autism and developmental delays. Lineagen is unique in that we also provide telephone genetic counseling and insurance claims/appeals assistance for the family and ordering physician.

I was reluctant to accept the position at Lineagen because I thought that I would feel unsatisfied performing telephone genetic counseling instead of in-person counseling. However, providing phone counseling has been incredibly fulfilling for me. I am able to use all the counseling skills I learned in graduate school to help patients make the best decision for their family, as well as provide them with any resources they may need. Additionally, there are many benefits to phone counseling that I hadn’t considered before, or that I had considered to be a drawback. For example, on the telephone you can’t see the patient in front of you to pick up on non-verbal cues, which is often seen as a drawback. However, it can also be a benefit because initial judgments based on a person’s appearance (the dreaded countertransference!) are no longer there. Being on the phone is also helpful for me because I have a much harder time controlling my facial expressions compared to controlling my tone of voice. I also look very young, which often caused my patients in clinic to not take me seriously.

The second reason I was reluctant to accept the position at Lineagen was because I thought a lab job didn’t sound very exciting. Boy was I wrong! You never know what unique test result is going to come back from the lab so I am constantly learning about new conditions, mechanisms, genes, and concepts. Luckily, I work with a group of incredibly smart and talented people who are a great resource and support system for me. Because Lineagen is a small company, I have also had opportunities to be involved in many projects in other departments, such as developing marketing collateral; training new employees; process and product development; insurance grievance calls, external reviews and appeal letters; presentations to the community about genetic testing; and educating co-workers about genetic testing concepts and technologies. Additionally, Lineagen is an elective rotation site for the students at the University of Utah Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, allowing me to gain experience as a supervisor and teach the occasional lecture. There is always something new happening at Lineagen so no two days at work are ever the same.

Another unique opportunity I had was the chance to attend the 4p- Support Group National Conference in Indianapolis, IN (July 2012). Due to a special partnership between the Support Group and Lineagen, I was able to have in-person genetic counseling sessions with twelve families. It was so fun getting to meet these incredible families and play with their awesome kids! I am also a member of the 4p- Scientific Advisory Board, whose goals are to identify and conduct studies to further the knowledge of 4p- disorders and how to teach the medical community about these individuals. In this role, I am also able to talk with parents of newly diagnosed children to help answer questions they may have, especially if they haven’t been to a genetics appointment yet.

Thank you to the UNCG program for a great genetic counseling foundation that allowed me to thrive in this dynamic, non-traditional position!