This month we are honoring genetic counseling students from Arcadia University in suburban Philadelphia. They are a group of inspiring and passionate men and women who always jump in to assist FORCE at important events whenever needed. FORCE is especially thankful to these remarkable genetic counselors in training for their help in providing an empowering experience for all attendees at the Philadelphia Joining FORCEs Conferences. Fill out our VolunteerFORCE application to help make a difference, too!
For the past two years, genetic counseling students from Arcadia University were honored to attend and volunteer at the National FORCE Conference in Philadelphia, PA. The genetic counselors in training introduced speakers, moderated lectures, staffed FORCE fundraising tables and helped attendees navigate the conference.
- Erin Royer was among the fourteen second-year student volunteers. She had the honor of introducing speaker Joanna Rudnick, a documentary filmmaker whose gripping and personal film on BRCA mutations, In the Family, she had viewed as a part of Arcadia's genetic counseling curriculum. Royer said, "Introducing Joanna was such a great experience for me. She was so open and honest about her experiences, and by sharing her story, she helped the women find their own voice in their story telling. It was impressive to see Joanna listen to a story and find the niche that story could fill in the world."
- Samantha Fulton volunteered at the sales table selling T-shirts and books, from novels about women's experiences with breast cancer to texts exploring different reconstruction options. "I really enjoyed working at the table," Fulton explained, "because the books provided points of conversation. Many of the women openly told me their stories and I learned a lot from them. It's one thing to learn about it in the classroom, but it's another thing to hear about the experiences from those affected with BRCA mutations and their families."
- Student Kaylee Faulkner summed it all up: "As future genetic counselors, we study the mechanisms of cancer and the inheritance of cancer-associated genes, but attending the conference, engaging with people who stand strong as they face their own risks and watching a community come together to offer support with open arms cannot be taught in the classroom."
Arcadia genetic counseling students were proud to lend a helping hand and appreciated the opportunity to engage in the community FORCE has built.
The relationship between the Arcadia Genetic Counseling program and FORCE began more than ten years ago, when Arcadia's program director Kathleen Valverde met Sandy Cohen. Kathy Valverde understands and appreciates FORCE's commitment to families because her mother was a BRCA carrier, and she herself underwent BRCA testing. "The services that FORCE provides for all BRCA families have created a community of support and hope, and we are honored to partner with this wonderful advocacy group," she explained. For nearly ten years, Sandy Cohen and FORCE volunteers have been speaking annually to Arcadia's first year genetic counseling students as part of their Cancer Genetics course. A large group of students attends FORCE's Breast Cancer Awareness Night at the Philadelphia Union each fall, and in 2013 a group was thrilled to attend FORCE's star-studded premiere of "Decoding Anne Parker" at the Ambler Theater.
The partnership between FORCE and Arcadia University's genetic counseling students provides the students with firsthand understanding of life with a BRCA mutation. These experiences expand the students' knowledge beyond the classroom and will help to inform their clinical practice.