Barry Tong (MS, MPH, 2010) doesn’t have co-workers or an in-office dynamic, at least not in the traditional sense. “I’m about 60% travel, 40% office.” Barry is a Certified Genetic Counselor and Institutional Product Specialist at Myriad Genetic Laboratories in Austin, Texas. As such, he caters to small clinics, universities, and hospitals, providing education support and resources to those that use genetic testing services.
Myriad is a clinical diagnostic laboratory, primarily providing hereditary cancer clinical genetic testing. Clinicians from all over the US send samples to Myriad, looking for interpretations and results. “There are around 80-90 genetic counselors (GCs) that work in every capacity, from sales reps to directors to internal labs.” These GCs reside around the country, and their clients are healthcare providers. “We provide education for referrals for genetic counseling and testing, and interpret results.”
As of July 2015, Barry has transitioned to work only with academic centers. “Now I work with cancer GCs in Texas at big universities, addressing needs and motivating changes to happen in lab that are usable in the clinical setting.” Working remotely translates to a lot of webinars and e-meetings. “You have to really motivate yourself to engage and speak up. You don’t have the visual cues of a typical meeting, so it takes some adapting.”
Barry places a lot of value on his genetic counseling education at U of M. Since the Genetic Counseling Master’s program is based in the Human Genetics Department and integrated with the PhD program, counseling students benefit from a rigorous, didactic basic science human genetics education. “Knowing about the specific science means you can be a clinical and lab expert. I have a leg up, even compared to very experienced GCs.” Barry completed the dual Genetic Counseling/Master’s in Public Health degree, and says having that third year helped him refine what he wanted to do for his career. “Knowing what type of work setting you want to be in really helps.”
While he gets the opportunity to travel for work, sometimes Barry wishes his work took him a little further north every now and then. “I really miss Zingerman’s. I’m a total foodie, and I would come back to Ann Arbor just to eat there!”