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Students/Faculty News Kevin Storr November 10, 2016

Rebecca ShapiroRebecca Shapiro, Genetic Counseling Class of 2017Rebecca Shapiro, UAB Genetic Counseling Class of 2017, traveled 140 miles for her undergraduate degree (Detroit to Kalamazoo) and 718 miles for her graduate degree (Kalamazoo to Birmingham). But to do her summer rotation, she chose to travel more than 11,000 miles. Where did she go? Why did she go? And why is she going again? The answers to that and much more in our latest UAB School of Health Professions student profile.

Name: Rebecca Shapiro
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Undergraduate Institution: Kalamazoo College (Kalamazoo, Michigan)
Graduate Program: UAB Genetic Counseling, Class of 2017

UAB SHP: Why did you choose UAB Genetic Counseling?

Rebecca Shapiro: I chose UAB Genetic Counseling because it was without a doubt the best fit for me. I knew that at UAB I would be provided a rigorous education in an environment I felt comfortable in when I visited. I knew I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and get out of the Midwest for a couple of years. When I interviewed, I loved my interactions with the genetic counselors and program director and was over the moon when I was accepted. This was my first choice when I was applying for schools. I just knew it was the right fit. I am so glad I chose the UAB Genetic Counseling program.

UAB SHP: What has been your favorite aspect of UAB Genetic Counseling?

Rebecca Shapiro: There are so many aspects of UAB Genetic Counseling that I love. I love my classmates, we are all very close, and the program has provided us an environment to feel comfortable and not competitive with one another. We always work together, discuss interesting and challenging cases together and support each other through these tough two years! I do not think this would be possible at every program, the UAB program definitely supports us and provides us an environment where we work together and not against one another.

UAB SHP: Why did you choose Perth, Australia for your summer clinical rotation?

Rebecca Shapiro: Perth, Australia has become a second home to me. I first went to Perth in 2013 when I was studying abroad my junior year in undergrad at Kalamazoo College. I went back in 2014 for a summer internship as well. It is an amazing city located in an equally as amazing country. When our program director, Christina Hurst, told us we could go off site for our summer rotation, it was the first place that popped into my mind. I knew I wanted to make it work out, and we are lucky enough in our genetic counseling program to have an amazing director who is undeniable supportive of all of our hopes and endeavors! I am so grateful I had the opportunity to do my first clinical rotation there this summer.

UAB SHP: What Genetic Counseling lessons did you learn in Australia that are different from the U.S.?

Rebecca Shapiro: I learned so many lessons in Australia, I could go on for days! This is especially because of how different the two medical systems work (private versus public, free health care), but also because of the massive cultural differences I think one of the lessons I learned is that not all patients respond the same way to bad news. We are taught this in our didactic coursework, but it becomes much more clear when you see it for yourself. Often times I assumed that breaking what I consider “bad news” to a patient always elicits a bad reaction, since that is often the case here in the U.S. However, often times in Australia, they would remain very calm and collected and often took the bad news at face value. It was a big adjustment for me to realize that every patient is different, and a patient’s culture and background absolutely influences how they react to tough situations.

UAB SHP: What is similar about the two continents’ approach to Genetic Counseling?

Rebecca Shapiro: The goals of genetic counseling are the same across continents. Genetic counselors are there to help patients navigate the complicated world of genetics and provide support and education to patients. Genetic counselors in both countries support patient autonomy and give their patients unconditional positive regard, no matter what their situation is or what their decisions about testing and medical management are. I felt very comfortable training in Australia because the approaches are so similar.

UAB SHP: You are returning for a rotation in spring, what draws you back to Perth?

Rebecca Shapiro: Every time I visit Perth I feel more and more comfortable there. It has truly become a second home to me. After having an excellent experience this past summer training there, I knew I wanted to try and go back to a country I love, if possible! . Having the experience to learn about genetic counseling and genetics internationally has been an invaluable contribution to my training experience. I am glad I have been able to train in Perth, and I am so grateful to be able to return to Perth and continue my clinical training this winter.

UAB SHP: Finally, at UAB we believe knowledge can change the world. Now that you have learned around the world, how will your knowledge change the world?

Rebecca Shapiro: I hope that by experiencing and learning about how a different hospital (and medical) system operates I can apply that knowledge to improving our own system. Gaining diverse perspectives of genetic counseling, I believe, only makes me a better genetic counselor and allows me to think more abstractly when dealing with complicated, or challenging cases. I can only hope that what I have gained through my incredible experience both here at UAB and abroad in Perth, will help me be able to change our world.

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