Posted 3 years ago
Get to Know Our Ironwood Genetic Counselors – Mandy Kass
What made you decide to pursue Genetic Counseling as your career?
I explored many different majors during undergrad such as Fine Arts, Fashion Merchandising, Astronomy, Pre-Med, and Psychology. Turns out, it helps to be halfway decent at drawing to be in the art world (I was more interested in ceramics) and Astronomy, although fascinating, involved a little too much math for my liking. I began to realize that whatever path I chose needed to involve science and people.
When I learned that genetic counseling was a career path, I knew it was the perfect fit. It combines the challenging field of genetics and the ability to work directly with patients to help them better understand their risk of an inherited disease. I am glad that I was able to explore so many different career options early on because it really helped solidify my love and appreciation for the ever-evolving field of genetics.
How important is it to receive genetic counseling after receiving a cancer diagnosis?
Not every cancer is hereditary, so genetic testing may not be useful for every cancer patient. However, for some patients, genetic counseling and testing can have profound impacts on their treatment plan, future screening recommendations, and also have an impact on their family members who may be at risk of an inherited cancer predisposition.
What are the educational requirements for a Genetic Counselor? Where did you attend school?
It takes about 6 years of schooling to become a genetic counselor. This includes a 4-year Bachelor’s degree with completion of certain pre-requisites, followed by a two-year Master’s degree in Human/Medical Genetics. After graduation, genetic counselors take a standardized board exam to become a certified genetic counselor.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Arizona State University. I then completed my Master’s degree in Human Genetics at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. My clinical rotations were located all throughout New York City, including North Central Bronx Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Bellevue Hospital, amongst others.
What is the most exciting part of your job?
The best part of my job is using the power of genetic information to help prevent certain health outcomes for individuals. For example, when we find that someone has an inherited risk for cancer, we can try to prevent certain cancers from occurring by using preventative surgeries, increased surveillance, or preventative medications.
I think we can all agree that the ideal way to treat cancer is to prevent it from happening in the first place. It is a good feeling to know that there are certainly many lives that have been changed because of the field of genetics and the impact of this information.
Best place you’ve ever traveled to?
Most recently, my husband and I traveled to St. Maarten for our honeymoon in late 2019. We spent time snorkeling, exploring the local beaches and nearby islands, and watching the planes come in at Maho Beach. It was a very memorable trip and we can’t wait to go back someday!
What is your favorite thing to do on the weekends?
My husband and I have a cabin in Pine, AZ. We love to spend weekends there, especially in the summer so we can escape the heat. We enjoy spending time hiking with our three dogs and going to the local restaurants and antique shops.
I grew up in Minnesota and spent the summers going up north on the weekends to our family lake cabin, so it has been nice to create the same kind of tradition here in Arizona. Now if only Arizona had more lakes!
What three items would you take on an island?
That depends – do my three dogs count as my three items? 🙂
What is your favorite season?
I think a majority of us can agree that the best part of living in Arizona is enjoying 70-degree days in the winter months. I can confidently say that I do not miss Minnesota winters! Although it is nice to go back and have a white Christmas, I am always glad to come back to warm temperatures and sunshine.
What is something you are proud of?
I am proud to have found a career path that I enjoy and that challenges me. As someone who has a family history of cancer, I feel privileged to be able to work with patients during some of the most difficult times in their lives and to help them navigate through a new diagnosis.
I look forward to continuing my work with Ironwood and helping our patients understand how genetics can have an impact on their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
About Ciara Endicott
Ciara Endicott is the Support Service Coordinator for Ironwood Integrative Services. Ciara oversees class and support group scheduling and implementation, as well as informational support to patients and their caregivers. Ciara also oversees the volunteer program at Ironwood that helps with various patient resources within our clinics.
She provides basic direction for patients seeking resources within the practice. Ciara has been with Ironwood since 2013, working with oncology patients in her various roles. She is currently completing her Bachelor’s Degree at Arizona State University, Majoring in Community Advocacy & Social Policy, and plans to pursue her Master’s Degree in Social Work.
Her passion and desire to work with cancer patients have been inspired by her own experience with cancer and her desire to promote whole-person health and healing. Outside of work, Ciara enjoys doing crafts with her two children, playing Scrabble with her husband, and journaling.
About Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers
Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers (ICRC) is the largest multi-specialty oncology network in the Greater Metro Phoenix area. They have over 100 medical providers, a robust Integrative Services program, and a dedicated clinical research department. Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers has 15 valley locations and five comprehensive cancer care centers that offer a multi-disciplinary approach for expedited personalized patient care. For more information, please visit www.ironwoodcrc.com.