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Alumna Emily Edelman honored by National Society for Genetics Counselors

Over the past eight years, Emily Edelman, MS’06, has devoted time, energy and expertise in her volunteer work with the National Society for Genetics Counselors. Her service was recognized with the NSGC’s 2015 Outstanding Volunteer Award at its annual education conference in Pittsburgh on Oct. 22.

Edelman has served the society on five task forces, chaired the personalized medicine special interest group and led the abstract review committee. But she may be most passionate about her work with the NSGC Education Committee that is responsible for the society’s annual education conference, webinar and online course planning and execution.

Genetic counselor Emily Edelman, MS’06

Genetic counselor Emily Edelman, MS’06

“Genetic information is increasingly relevant to patients and clinicians in many different medical specialties,” Edelman said. “As the number of clinically applicable genetic and genomic tests increases across health care, education is more important than ever. Patients and consumers need to be able to make informed decisions about genetic information and managing providers need to know when and how to implement genetics into their practice. Genetic counselors can help achieve these goals by keeping abreast of discoveries in the field and translating emerging tests and applications to patient care.”

According to Sara Hammer Riordan who nominated her for the award, Edelman has extensive experience with developing educational programs for health care providers both inside and outside of the genetic counseling field has been valuable to the NSGC.

Edelman works in the genomic education program at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. As the associate director of clinical and continuing education, she develops educational content for diverse health professional audiences.

In her nomination, Riordan also credits Edelman with working to move the genetic counseling profession forward.

“Her innovative work in developing genetic educational programs for a diverse spectrum of health care providers has paved the way for other genetic counselors to enter into this nontraditional career path,” said Riordan, who is clinical program manager with the IMPACT cancer care program at Thermo Fisher Scientific and a director-at-large with NSGC. “Her multiple invited presentations at national conferences, meetings and seminars clearly demonstrate that she is seen as a leader in our field.”

Edelman is a diplomate of the American Board of Genetic Counseling. She earned a master’s degree in genetic counseling from the VCU School of Medicine in 2006. The medical school’s M.S. program in Genetic Counseling is the only one in Virginia. It was established in 1990 and has more than 90 graduates.


Safety Net Collaborative a win-win for VCU and Richmond

When three safety net primary care clinics in Richmond found they could not fully meet the mental health needs of their patients, they knew they had to find a solution to provide these critical services to the city’s most vulnerable populations.

Rachel Waller, M’99

Rachel Waller, M’99

With over half of all patients receiving substandard or no mental health care, the clinics needed to provide thousands of behavioral care sessions to their patients. But where to find a group psychologists willing to contribute hundreds of hours of work at little or no cost?

Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D., a professor in VCU’s Department of Psychology, had the perfect answer: his doctoral trainees. As a result, since 2008 trainees have delivered over 10,000 pro bono sessions at the Ambulatory Care Center on the MCV Campus, the Daily Planet for the Homeless and the Fan Free Clinic. A fourth clinic, VCU’s Hayes E. Willis Health Center, has recently been added.

The Safety Net Primary Care Psychology Collaborative has proved fruitful for everyone involved. The clinics are able to better cover the mental health needs of their patients, while the doctoral students get valuable experience working with a wide-range of patients. Most importantly, the medically underserved in the Richmond community get access to the care they need.

Rachel Waller, M’99, has seen the benefits of the collaborative firsthand through her work on the internal medicine service at the Ambulatory Care Center.

“Integrating mental and physical health care is important because you cannot have good control of physical health outcomes when mental health issues such as anxiety and depression go untreated. In our patient population, with limited care access and transportation issues, having psychology resources available during the primary care visit is vital.”

“The ‘warm handoff,’ in which a primary care provider introduces the clinical psychology services team to the patient can really improve willingness to seek care, particularly since there remains an unfortunate stigma for many in acknowledging that they are experiencing mental health issues.”

Integrating mental and physical health care services at the clinics has been an effective method for improving patient outcomes. Behavioral and physical health problems are often interconnected; treating one side of a patient’s problems but not the other often means more care, and more costs, down the road. Study findings show patients receiving this type of integrated healthcare had fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

Psychology professor Bruce Rybarcyz and vice provost for community engagement Catherine Howard celebrated the success of the Safety Net Collaborative this spring’s Currents of Change Award Ceremony. Photo credit: Steven Casanova.

Psychology professor Bruce Rybarczyk and vice provost for community engagement Catherine Howard celebrated the success of the Safety Net Collaborative this spring’s Currents of Change Award Ceremony. Also pictured are Kathy Yost Benham, director of Client Support and Mental Health Services at the Fan Free Clinic, and Paul Perrin, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, who supervises the program at the Daily Planet. Photo credit: Steven Casanova.

These results are evident on the MCV Campus. Waller, who works as an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, says the clinic has seen “decreased admission rates for medical illness for our patients who utilize clinical psychology students compared to controls.”

The success of the program has not gone unnoticed. This year the collaborative won VCU’s Currents of Change Award, which recognizes mutually beneficial partnerships between the university and the Richmond community.

This experience in collaborative, team-based care is invaluable for both medical and psychology trainees. Since the collaboration began, 80 doctoral students have worked at the clinics, six of whom have gone on to work in integrated care positions as a result of their experience at VCU.

Medical residents also benefit from the help offered by their colleagues in the psychology department, as many report greater work satisfaction and significant benefits for their patients since the collaboration started.

Waller says that outpatient care is moving from a model that emphasizes productivity to one that focuses on medical outcomes. Cohesive, interdisciplinary teams like the collaborative will be better equipped to meet the demands of the newly emerging outpatient medical system.

The collaborative has been funded for three years by the HRSA Graduate Psychology Education program, and this past summer additional support was received from the Virginia Health Care Foundation and Richmond Memorial Healthcare Foundation.

By Jack Carmichael


Pathology’s Kimberly Sanford receives national honor as 2015’s Distinguished Pathology Educator

“My first job in the laboratory was as a phlebotomist while attending college to become a medical laboratory scientist,” says Kimberly W. Sanford, M’01, H’06. “From that point on, I knew that I had found my home.”

Kimberly W. Sanford, M’01, H’06

Kimberly W. Sanford, M’01, H’06

After graduation, she worked in a variety of laboratories around the MCV Campus before deciding to enter medical school. Today, she is an assistant professor in the medical school’s Department of Pathology and has received the Outstanding Teacher Award in the pathology introduction course for medical students for four years running. Drawing on her wide-ranging experiences, she has authored text book chapters as well as peer reviewed publications and has developed educational content at national meetings for all laboratory professionals.

This fall, she received national accolades as the recipient of the 2015 ASCP H. P. Smith Award for Distinguished Pathology Educator. The award is one of the American Society for Clinical Pathology’s highest honors. Each year, the society recognizes individuals who have made outstanding, lifelong contributions to the society and who have had distinguished careers in pathology and laboratory medicine embracing education, research and administration.

Sanford is medical director of both transfusion medicine and the Stony Point Laboratory at VCU Health. She is a three-time VCU alumna, having earned a medical technology degree from the School of Allied Health in 1991, a medical degree from the School of Medicine in 2001 and continuing on VCU’s MCV Campus to complete her pathology residency in 2006.