Filling the gap in genetic counselling
All the way from Hong Kong, genetic counselling student Maggie talks to us about studying in a blended learning mode.
Genetic Counselling at the Graduate School of Health uses a unique learning mode called blended learning, where students utilise active online learning, participate in weekly live and online classes, spend 1-2 week blocks on campus each session and attend clinical placements.
One of the Discipline’s goals was to make genetic counselling education more accessible to students who may be unable to relocate to Sydney permanently.
We caught up with Maggie (Wai Ki Law), a student of the new course who is from Hong Kong to find out more on what it is like to learn in this new mode. Maggie’s previous studies include a Bachelor of Science (major in Biotechnology) and Master of Medical Sciences (specialisation in Pathology) at the University of Hong Kong.
Read on to hear about Maggie’s passion and motivations for studying genetic counselling.
What attracted you to the profession of Genetic Counselling?
Hong Kong has increasingly been embracing genetic counselling as genetic testing providers grow within the city. Genetic counselling is important for both patients and their families - because it allows them to understand their genetic conditions and risks, and helps to relieve psychological stress they may be experiencing.
The public in Hong Kong (and elsewhere) are unfamiliar with the technical details involved in genetic testing. While consent forms list limitations of genetic tests, they can be unclear or written in terms that are not plain English, so it may be difficult for patients to understand the results and implications. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to become a genetic counsellor – I will act as the “bridge” that helps patients make sense of their results.
I also wish to provide professional genetic counselling for a wide range of genetic tests, including direct-to-customer genetic tests, to allow patients to understand test limitations and implications of the results.
When you return to Hong Kong, what area will you work in as a Genetic Counsellor?
I plan to work as an Associate Genetic Counsellor at a genetic testing company in Hong Kong specialising in genetic testing for prenatal, paediatric and adult conditions. My clients will be families and individuals who want to know their risk associated with genetic disorders.
Is Genetic Counselling an established profession in Hong Kong?
Genetic counselling is not an established profession in Hong Kong currently. It does not have a professional board for the certification of genetic counsellors, while Australia has the Human Genetics Society of Australasia (HGSA) Board of Censors for Genetic Counselling.
This is one of the reasons why I wanted to become a genetic counsellor – I will act as the “bridge” that helps patients make sense of their results.
Maggie (Wai Ki Law)
Master of Genetic Counselling student
Hong Kong does not have its own professional policies to regulate the practices of genetic counsellors. I believe that practicing with the official genetic counselling certification by the HGSA will benefit my clients, as the professional services provided will comply with their guidelines and policies.
How are you finding the online learning experience? In what ways is the experience similar to an in-person classroom experience?
Online learning is flexible with my lifestyle. I can manage my study anywhere and anytime, and save time travelling to campus. I can read the online materials in a café, at home or even during my travels!
Similar to the in-person classroom experience, I can still have chats with my classmates, raise questions and even debate topics through the online platform. Learning online has been more interesting and exciting than I had ever expected.
Are you enjoying living in Sydney?
During my first autumn session, I lived in accommodation offered by the UTS Housing Service in Ultimo. I have made many new friends and they have helped me settle in.
When I’m not studying I am off exploring. So far, I have been to Darling Harbour, Sydney Opera House, the Blue Mountains, Taronga Zoo, Sydney Fish Market, Sea Life Sydney Aquarium and China Town.
I find that Sydney is a lovely, energetic and multicultural city – I have really enjoyed living here.
One of my subjects encourages us to join different community activities and festivals, so I have been busy exploring cultural attractions, such as the Australian Museum, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and The Rocks Discovery Museum. Through these experiences, I have learnt a lot more about Indigenous Australia and their history.
Learn more about the UTS Genetic Counselling program.