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Whitley Kelley is a senior at Auburn University majoring in microbial cellular and molecular biology.
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If you are anything like me, you wonder what in the world made her choose that major. She has good reason.
Kelley explained that she has always had a passion for science and knew that was the direction in which she wanted to focus her studies. According to Kelley, after much research, she decided on microbial cellular and molecular biology.
Kelley said she knew she would enjoy the major by looking through the curriculum. “I liked the options this major offered. I’ve had the opportunity to choose certain classes that I was more interested in,” said Kelley. She also said that she likes the fact she is able to take classes that aren’t necessarily in her main interest of study because it gives her the chance to explore other aspects of science. “I have been able to take plant biology and invertebrate biodiversity, which I really enjoyed.”
According to Kelley, she researched possible careers in which her chosen major could lead. “I started reading about genetic counseling and it sounded really interesting and sounded like something I could see myself enjoying.” said Kelley.
During the summer of 2011, Kelley spent time shadowing a genetic counselor at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Ala. “Shadowing a genetic counselor sealed the deal for me,” said Kelley. In order to gain more experience, she went on to shadow another genetic counselor in January of 2012 .“Through my observations while shadowing, I knew that was what I wanted to do professionally and I made it my goal from that day on.” With the anticipation of graduating in December 2012, Kelley plans to apply for genetic counseling school this fall.
“Genetic medicine is relatively new compared to other things, but the field is growing rapidly,” said Kelley. She explained that genetic counselors have two main roles. They conduct counseling with patients to determine if testing is necessary, and if so, what kinds of tests are available. Secondly, genetic counselors conduct counseling with patients to interpret test results back to them.
As a genetic counselor, Kelley said that she will work in a clinic setting. She said that her ideal profession will consist of working with patients that have or could have higher risks for developing genetic disorders such as certain types of cancer and other diseases. “Genetic counselors also have the opportunity to work with prenatal or pregnant patients to screen for diseases such as Down’s syndrome,” said Kelley.
“One of my favorite aspects of the job and one of the things I am looking forward to most about being a genetic counselor is the relationships I will be able to form with my patients. I will have the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with patients to talk everything through with them and explain what their diagnosis means. I will be able to break down complicated and sometime scary decisions to patients that they are faced to make about their health,” said Kelley.
“As a genetic counselor, I hope to be the main person my patients come to with questions and concerns,” said Kelley.

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