The program’s fourth annual conference included tips on restoring justice, implementing strategies for building successful supervisory relationships, and developing skills for engaging in conversations around identity and learned biases.

The events of the past few years have impacted the world in profound ways – the genetic counseling community included. So as the IHP’s Genetic Counseling program held its fourth annual conference last week, it aimed to provide guidance on restorative justice, relationship building, supervisory techniques and breaking down biases.  

The hybrid conference, held June 3, brought together practicing genetic counselors, current students in the IHP’s program, prospective students, and geneticists from around the country. It was presented to roughly 50 in-person attendees from across New England and more than 100 via Zoom. 

“Restorative justice heals and restores human relationships,” said Ann Seman, an Assistant Professor of Genetic Counseling and the program’s Director of Clinical Education. “Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs and obligations in order to heal. We are a profession, a community in need of healing. The goal of today is to learn how to heal the damage done to relationships in the face of harm.”

The conference began with Jammy Torres-Millet, MSW, Associate Director, Social Justice Education & Student Engagement in the MGH Institute’s Office of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, who presented “Exploring Restorative Approaches to Building Trusting Relationships with Students.” They noted that restorative justice encompasses more than conflict resolution but rather is a holistic understanding of how to live each day in alignment with one’s core values. Torres-Millet discussed how restorative justice heals people by providing community connection, a sense of belonging, radical self-love, and healthier relationships.  

Rachel Huckfeldt, MD, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School clinician-scientist, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Laura Manfre, MBA, Board Chair and Co-Founder of Hope in Focus, and Emily Place, MS, CGC, Senior Genetic Counselor and Manager of Genetics and Genetic Counseling at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. next presented “Genetic Therapies for Inherited Retinal Disorders.” In this discussion, they shared an overview of the genetic heterogeneity of various inherited retinal disorders, detailed the different types of gene therapy and provided a parent’s perspective of diagnosis. 

Next up was Stephanie Hicks, MS, CGC, Genetic Counselor at the MGH Center for Cancer Risk Assessment, and Devanshi Patel, MS, CGC, Clinical Operations Manager and Senior Genetic Counselor at MGH Center for Cancer Risk Assessment, who co-presented “Let’s Talk about Supervising.” Their discussion targeted the educational community, focusing on how to create a strong supervisory working alliance.

In the afternoon, Bria Brown-King, MS, Director of Engagement at interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth, presented “Intersex:  Bodies Beyond the Binary.” They shared their own powerful and vulnerable experience as an intersex person, and then provided tangible actions genetic counselors may take in practice to advocate for and support their intersex patients.

Molly Howes, PhD, Clinical Psychologist and published author, ended the conference with “The Power of a Good Apology – And How to Make One,” in which she focused on the steps necessary to properly apologize in a professional setting. She put these steps into action by prompting the group to reflect on a time when they hurt someone and challenged them to determine how they could best respond. 

“Our education conference has been a very successful annual event, and we will continue to focus on topics and speakers related to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, as well as the training and supervision of GC students,” said Maureen Flynn, Chair of the Genetic Counseling Department. “Attendees can count on the MGH Institute to provide this education."