What Is It Like To Study Public Health Genetics?

Presented by students from Pitt Public Health

As a part of Public Health Genetics Week 2021, PHGW was very excited to partner with the University of Pittsburgh School Graduate School of Public Health Human Genetics program to hold a discussion with current students about being a public health genetics student.

Watch the recorded conversation to learn why the students decided to pursue a degree in public health genetics, what the curriculum at Pitt is like, and what they hope to do with their future Masters in Public Health-Human Genetics degree.

If you have questions or would like to contact one of the panelists, please reach out to phgw@phgw.org.


Madalyn Charnego

What public health genetics means to me: To me, Public Health Genetics is not only my field of study, but is also the key to understanding the puzzle pieces that make us each who we are as individuals and who we are as populations.

Haley Director

Why is public health genetics important?: Public health genetics is important because of how genetics is proliferating science and medicine today. Especially with new focus on newborn screening and precision medicine, it is more important than ever to increase awareness of public health genetics.

Courtney Kasturiarachi

What public health genetics means to me: Public Health Genetics has the potential to shift public health as we know it. It means increased access to genetic testing and screening as well as the force to break down social and societal health barriers. That is what makes this field powerful and meaningful to me.

Carly McKinnis

What public health genetics means to me: Public Health Genetics is empowering. If we take the time to learn about and understand our unique genetic information, it can hold the key to improving our health and preventing disease.


Andrea Durst, MS, DrPH, CGC

“Dr. Durst joined the [Pitt] Genetic Counseling Program in May 2015 and is currently the Interim Program Director of the Genetic Counseling Program and the Co-Director of the MPH in Public Health Genetics Program. She joins these programs with extensive experience in clinical cancer genetic counseling, management, and public health genetics. Dr. Durst’s teaching interests are in genetic counseling, clinical genetics, and public health genetics. She provides support for Genetic Counseling Program and MPH in Public Health Genetics Program development and is engaged in teaching, student research, and the coordination of student clinical rotations and practicums.

Dr. Durst’s research interests include public health genetics and cancer genetics. Specifically, she is interested in the state implementation of CDC Tier 1 Genomic Applications for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer syndrome, Lynch syndrome and Familial Hypercholesterolemia. She has worked with a number of stakeholders on public health genetics projects, including the NYMAC Regional Genetics Network, the Pennsylvania Cancer Coalition, the Genetic Alliance, the CDC, and the Michigan Department of Community Health. Dr. Durst was part of a team that developed educational materials on bidirectional cancer registry reporting for the identification of individuals at risk for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer syndrome and Lynch syndrome. She has previously worked with the Region 4 Genetics Collaborative as the facilitator for the Newborn Screening Long Term Follow-Up Workgroup. Currently, Dr. Durst serves as Treasurer of the Pennsylvania Association of Genetic Counselors, Chair of the Advisory Committee for the NYMAC Regional Genetics Network, Co-Chair of the Genetics/Genomics Workgroup of the Pennsylvania Cancer Coalition, and Co-Chair of the Genomics Education Workgroup of the APHA Genomics Forum.”

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