Elle and Ashley - the Base Pair that podcasts together

The next Base Pair comes from all the way from around the world (and down-under!). Elle and Ashley are a pair of Australian genetic counselors (counsellors) who teamed up to create a podcast. I’ve enjoyed listening to their episodes, and I can’t stop thinking about the ethical issues discussed in one early episode about the uncovering of spousal abuse and a non-paternity situation after the DNA testing of a minor child in genetics clinic. The work that genetic counselors do is so challenging sometimes. I wanted to learn more about the origins of the GC Chat podcast and invited Elle and Ashley to be the next Base Pair. Hope you enjoy reading about it! -Brianne

Elle and Ashley stand by a poster about “GC Chat” podcast

Elle and Ashley stand by a poster about “GC Chat” podcast

How did you get interested in genetics/genetic counseling? Did you learn about it from someone you knew?

Elle: I first realised my affinity for genetics while tackling a punnet square in year 9 science class. Alongside the genetics quiz in my textbook was a short description of the field of genetic counselling, which explained that genetic counsellors talked to people about the risks surrounding genetic conditions. Punnet square complete, I set out to become a genetic counsellor.  Seven years later, I had completed my undergraduate degree of biomedical science, majoring in physiology and genetics. I then embarked on my honours year in genetics, during which time I was lucky enough to meet with genetic counsellors within the hospital I was working, to get a real idea of what the job involved. I knew this was where I wanted to be, and shortly after I completed my two-year Masters of Genetic Counselling at the University of Sydney. 

Ashley: I didn’t hear about genetic counselling as a profession until I was at university. I completed a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts and kept my areas of interest open by majoring in genetics, geography and Indonesian. Towards the end of my degree, I really enjoyed genetics but didn’t see myself working in a laboratory. I had been a volunteer mentor for individuals from refugee backgrounds and knew that I wanted to work with people. I also still loved the geography and Indonesian studies and also considered doing honours research in Indonesia. Then, towards the end of my degree, a clinical geneticist gave a guest lecture and mentioned the role of genetic counsellors and I realised this may combine my interests in science and working with people. In the end, I applied for the Master of Genetic Counselling at University of Melbourne and was lucky enough to be accepted into the course.

What is your special connection to your Base Pair buddy? And how did you meet?

Both: A few years ago, we started working together at a Familial Cancer Service. We quickly bonded over the insane workload, but also our appreciation of the patients, the team, and the autonomy of the role. Our shared excellent sense of humour and that we are both originally from Melbourne probably also helped! We’ve worked closely in one way or another ever since. We have both always had a drive to promote communication about genetics both to the public, and within the field of genetic counselling. The idea for our podcast came to us on the train home one Friday night, while we were discussing alternative options for genetic counselling supervision- by the time we had arrived at our stop, our plan for GC Chat was born and we recorded our introduction episode soon after!

Any final words for our readers?

Both: We would really like to thank the genetic counselling community for their support throughout our launching of this podcast. We couldn’t have done this without all the GC’s willing to share their challenging cases and going out on a limb to present these in such an accessible way. We never imagined getting such great feedback from our colleagues either, both within Australia and internationally. We also owe a huge thank you to Ashley’s partner Shaun, who has helped us tirelessly with recording, production and meticulous graphic design. 

If a genetic counselor has an interesting case they’d like to talk about, what should they do?

Both: Please contact us! You can DM us through Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook (@GCChatpodcast) or email us at gcchatpodcast@gmail.com.

Base Pair Bios

Elle Martin, Bsc.BioMed(Hons), MGenCouns[MHGSA] is an associate genetic counsellor living in Sydney, Australia. She works in both cardiac genetics and the genetics of intellectual disability, with a focus on genomic testing for these conditions. Elle has a keen interest in genomic testing as it is implemented into medical subspecialties and supporting both patients and other medical staff through this process.

Ashley Crook, BA, BSc, MGenCouns[FHGSA] is a certified genetic counsellor living in Sydney, Australia. She works in both familial cancer and adult neurology clinics. She is a PhD student in the Genetic Counselling discipline at the University of Technology Sydney Graduate School of Health. More information about her project can be found here: https://www.uts.edu.au/about/graduate-school-health/genetic-counselling/news/exciting-time-be-genetic-counsellor

Thank you to Ashley and Elle for participating as Base Pairs! I am looking forward to catching season 2 of GC Chat (coming October 2019)! - Brianne