New genetic counseling program proved a perfect fit for graduate

UAB’s genetic counseling program provided a student with a world of clinical opportunities.

For as long as he can remember, Jamison Beek has loved science. The Sioux Falls, S.D., native and his brother Geoffrey would create wild experiments in the kitchen and dig up their backyard in search of dinosaur bones.

Jamison_Beek_web“We never did have luck finding any,” Beek, 27, says.

Today, science is still a major part of his life – minus the dinosaur bones. On Saturday, May 12, 2012, Beek will graduate with a master’s of science degree as part of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s inaugural class of the genetic counseling program. Beek’s brother will graduate from the same program next year.

“It was pretty exciting being a part of the first class,” he says. “I was continually impressed.”

Beek will give the post-baccalaureate commencement speech at Saturday’s 2 p.m. ceremony.

“I feel that UAB has very much prepared me to begin my career as a professional genetic counselor,” he says. “I feel confident in my abilities, but I will continue to work on improving myself in order to better serve my patients.” 

It was an undergraduate genetics class that sparked Beek’s interest in the field, he says. While pursuing a biology degree in the Midwest he became fascinated with the discoveries and constant changing technologies the field offered.

After getting his bachelor’s degree, Beek spent a couple of years working in laboratories and realized that he didn’t want to just do experimental work, he wanted to interact with patients.

As a genetic counselor, he could talk to families about genetic disease, family history and inheritance of different risks and treatment options and provide psycho-social counseling.

“I just wanted to use my passion for genetics in a way that would allow me to connect with people,” he says. “Even when people are going through difficult situations, I get satisfaction through supporting them in any way that I can.” 

In doing his research for a graduate program, UAB seemed to have all the elements he was looking for, Beek says.

“UAB has a myriad of specialty clinics that aren't available at other hospitals,” he says. “It was exciting to know that I would have the opportunity to see patients in a variety of settings.”  

Since being at UAB, Beek has acquired a laundry list of clinical experience. He has counseled patients in a variety of specialty clinics including those for preconception, Marfan syndrome, metabolic disorder, craniofacial abnormalities, tuberous sclerosis and Huntington’s disease. He also provided counseling for high-risk cancer families and a variety of pediatric patients.

Beek also won first place at this year’s UAB Graduate Research Day in the category of “Public Health and Social and Behavioral Sciences.” His research examined the willingness of health care professionals to incorporate direct-to-consumer genetic test results in patient care.

After graduation, Beek plans to head back to the Midwest, marry his fiancée and start working as a genetics counselor.