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Jessica Blasko Goehringer ’98 believes information is powerful. As a senior genetic counselor at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Nashua, New Hampshire, who also oversees its Prenatal Diagnosis Program in the southern part of the state, she helps patients sort through complex genetic information so they are prepared for potentially complicated pregnancies.
Preparation is something Goehringer knows well. With no undergraduate genetic counseling programs available, she worked closely with Karen Kurvink, associate professor of biology, through Moravian’s Add-Venture program to tailor a major with psychology, biology, and chemistry classes.
“I never felt like just another number; Moravian provided a sound education on an intimate campus, which was the perfect fit for me,” says Goehringer, who also earned a master’s degree at Arcadia University. “My curriculum was very personalized which made it interesting and motivational. Most people who become genetic counselors get a psychology or biology degree; I combined the best of both worlds.”
Kurvink encouraged Goehringer to apply for a genetics laboratory internship at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, where she studied genes that predispose some people to cancer.
“It was powerful to see how this research could translate to, hopefully, saving lives,” she says. “Being trained at a renowned institution with such well-respected researchers and clinicians energized and motivated me to enter a field that has become my passion.”
In the rapidly changing field of genetics, Goehringer has to stay on top of her game to best advocate for patients. Today, there are tests for some conditions for which there was no known genetic link only a few years ago. “Some families have had a child with multiple birth defects, and no one could tell them why,” she says. “With new testing, we can find the cause of certain conditions and analyze the risk to other family members. It’s wonderful when I provide optimistic news to patients and families. When they leave feeling heard, empowered, and encouraged about a potential outcome, it puts a great spin on the day.”
"I never felt like just another number; Moravian provided a sound education on an intimate campus, which was the perfect fit for me."