Jenna Miller, 25, is a genetic counselor with Recombine, a genetic testing company in New York.
Q. What kind of counseling do you do?
A. I mostly work with couples who are trying to conceive or those where the woman is already pregnant. They want to know if they’re carriers of a genetic disorder. We have a test for over 250 diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs and sickle cell anemia. I also speak to sperm and egg donors about their test results.
Do you meet with people in person?
I counsel people over the phone. Telemedicine is becoming an important part of health care, especially for people who live in rural areas. I’ve talked to clients on every continent except Antarctica.
What do you say to couples who are both carriers of a disorder?
After I explain their reproductive risks, we discuss their options, such as in vitro fertilization. We also talk about the psychological implications of their situation. For example, they may feel empowered to have the information, or frustrated, or they may be feeling the loss of the reproductive process they were expecting.
How did you decide on this field?
I became interested in this area in the seventh grade, when my life science teacher explained dominant and recessive traits in a unit on genetics. My mother’s eyes are brown, and mine are blue like my father’s. She showed me on a diagram that my mother must be a carrier of the blue-eyed trait.
What was your training?
I have a master’s degree in genetic counseling. There’s a huge scientific component to this career, but you also need to know psychology and how to teach, such as the best way to break down complex genetic concepts.
Do you feel you can be objective with clients?
My role is to give them the information they need to make a decision, not to try to direct them to one. If clients ask what I would do, I tell them they need to consider how they feel about x and y. We all have unique circumstances and values and come from different backgrounds. I try to help them appreciate that so they can own their decision. It’s difficult to be purely objective, but I try to be aware of any bias so if it comes up, I can consciously put it aside.