In the world of DNA, a base pair is a set of genetic letters that join together from opposing strands of the double helix. The two letters go together like peas and carrots. T matches up with A, and G matches up with C, composing a rung of the DNA ladder. Without base pairs, we'd have no double helix and we'd have no DNA molecule.
In the world of people, it's much the same. We rely on strong and lasting relationships to weather the storms and appreciate the calm moments of life. People find a fit and link themselves together, whether it's because they are family, they've forged an intentional friendship, or they share a common experience that bonds them for life.
My next Base Pair is a set of genetic counselors whose relationship started unsuspectingly...just one curious student shadowing a professional working in her area of academic interest. Over time, the relationship evolved into one of mentor/mentee, then to that of co-workers, and eventually, business co-founders.
One of the takeaways from the responses I received from Ellen Matloff and Danielle Bonadies is the message of the value of creating opportunities for other people, and of fostering and encouraging their innate abilities.
Some of the best gifts we can give another person with dreams and goals are opportunities and our belief in their potential.
I am happy to share the story of Ellen and Danielle as the next post in my Base Pair series.
HOW DID YOU GET INTERESTED IN GENETIC COUNSELING?
Ellen: I took a Genetics course as a sophomore in college and a genetic counselor came in to speak to the class. That led me to observe with a few genetic counselors, and then to do a formal internship. Sold!
Danielle: I first got interested in genetics after my high school biology teacher showed us a video about gene therapy for cystic fibrosis. It was the first time that learning became exciting for me. A spark was lit and I knew that I’d follow a path in the sciences.
DID YOU LEARN ABOUT GENETIC COUNSELING FROM SOMEONE YOU KNEW? DID YOU INFLUENCE SOMEONE ELSE TO ATTEND SCHOOL FOR GENETIC COUNSELING?
Ellen: I did not learn about the field from someone I knew, but I have been told that I’ve influenced several students who, like me, were looking for a career path and heard me lecture to their classes about genetic counseling.
Danielle: During college, I worked in a lab studying cystic fibrosis where another member of the lab was a genetic counselor. She spent some of her time in the lab and some of her time meeting with patients. I shadowed her and found that working with patients was a critical missing link.
WHAT IS YOUR SPECIAL CONNECTION TO YOUR BASE PAIR BUDDY? HOW DID YOU MEET?
Ellen: I first met Danielle when she contacted me to learn more about the field of genetic counseling! (There is a theme building here …) She spent a day with me at my job at Yale, and then came back as our Fellowship student while she was a graduate student at Sarah Lawrence. We then hired her as a genetic counselor as soon as she graduated!
Danielle: As I started exploring the field of genetic counseling further I reached out to several genetic counselors to shadow them. Ellen got back to me right away and I spent a few days over my winter break shadowing her. I never would have guessed that a few days of shadowing would turn into my first job, years of mentorship and multiple joint career paths.
WHAT’S THE UNIQUE ASPECT TO YOUR RELATIONSHIP BEYOND BEING COWORKERS?
Ellen: I’ve now known Danielle for more than a decade, across different jobs, and across many different transitions in our own personal and professional lives. We’ve climbed many mountains together, and I’m always grateful to have her on my team — never more so than when she helped me form My Gene Counsel. She is one of mGC’s greatest assets.
Danielle: Ellen began as role model when I entered the genetic counseling field and has added such incredible depth to my career. She’s been my boss, a colleague, a co-author, a friend and now the CEO of My Gene Counsel. She has always been my biggest advocate and my career path has blossomed because of it. Her unrelenting support and has made all the difference in my life, both professionally and personally.
Danielle Bonadies is the Director of the Cancer Genetics Division of My Gene Counsel, a digital health company that links current, updating, evidence-based information to genetic test results. Danielle was previously the Assistant Director of the Cancer Genetic Counseling Program at Yale where she designed and ran several interactive, on-line patient education and communication sites, and is a well-known speaker in Genetics. Danielle has co-authored multiple book chapters and articles in genetic counseling and testing and was involved in the publication of several key articles about the high rate of result misinterpretation amongst clinicians ordering genetic testing.
Ellen Matloff is President and CEO of My Gene Counsel, LLC, a digital health company offering accurate, dynamic solutions digital genetic counseling solutions to consumers and clinicians. Ellen is a certified genetic counselor who has served in a number of leadership positions in the profession, including being Founder and Director of the Cancer Genetic Counseling program at Yale Cancer Center.