While completing a master's degree in Genetic Counseling at Arcadia University, Hongbin Liu ’12M leveraged her expertise in biomedical research to seize valuable internships, which helped her transition to a new professional community and complete a career change. With guidance from Arcadia’s faculty and staff, Liu emerged from the graduate program not only with a better understanding of the field but with a full-time job.
Born and educated in China, Liu came to the United States in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a master’s degree in Physiology from East China Normal University in Shanghai, as well as a doctorate in Molecular Biology from Hebei Medical University in Hebei Province, China. For eight years she worked as a biomedical researcher at the University of Toledo and Case Western Reserve University. But she wanted more. Motivated by the idea of directly serving the public as a practitioner and inspired by the work of genetic counselors she met during her pregnancy, Liu began researching genetic counseling programs.
“What drew me to Arcadia was the culture-friendly, open-minded ethos,” says Liu. “The fact that Arcadia’s Genetic Counseling program accepts an international student every year is one of the best examples of the way the University distinguishes itself from other genetic counseling programs nationwide.
“In addition, the comprehensive and advanced curriculum and practice of medical genetics in numerous prestigious clinical sites in Greater Philadelphia help the Arcadia program stand out from other programs.”
These became important connections in Liu’s professional development. In fact, her Capstone project led to a recent academic publication. Liu co-authored an article with Alisha Wilkens, Adjunct Professor of Genetic Counseling, titled “Novel Clinical Manifestations in Pallister-Killian Syndrome: Comprehensive Evaluation of 59 Affected Individuals and Review of Previously Reported Cases.” The article, which was based on Liu's thesis project, completed under the supervision of the program’s Medical Director Dr. Ian Krantz, was published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics.
The opportunity to work with Krantz and Wilkens came about when Kathleen Valverde, Director of the M.S. in Genetic Counseling, recognized the value of Liu’s background in biomedical research. Valverde recommended Liu as an ideal candidate to serve as Graduate Assistant at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), where her job was to organize, analyze and interpret the data collected at the Pallister-Killian Syndrome Foundation family meetings.
To further prepare for a professional career outside of the classroom, Liu worked with a laboratory genetic counselor at the CHOP Cytogenetics Laboratory during the 2010-11 winter break. And the following summer, she was offered the Mayo Clinic Laboratory Genetic Counseling Internship, a highly-competitive program where she gained essential and extensive experience of laboratory genetic counseling.
“All of these self-motivated learning experiences prepared me well and I was employed as a laboratory genetic counselor by CTGT right before I graduated from Arcadia,” she says.
Today, as a Genetic Counselor at Connective Tissue Gene Tests (CTGT) in Allentown, Pa., Liu balances many responsibilities, including helping clients—mostly physicians and clinical genetic counselors—navigate the complexities of genetic testing and connective tissue disorders. She reviews literature, interprets and reports test results, and coordinates clinicians and laboratory personnel to provide the best service to patients.
“What I enjoy most is that my work allows me to directly help clinicians ascertain diagnoses and to shed light on complex issues in clinical genetic counseling as well as medical management,” she says.
Liu's formal education may be over, but as she gets involved in new test development, quality control management and technical trouble shooting as CTGT, she is learning more every day.
Genetic Counseling at Arcadia
All Class of 2012 graduates had full-time employment in the field within three months of graduation. For more information about Arcadia University's M.S. in Genetic Counseling program, visit arcadia.edu/geneticcounseling.