Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Mary-Frances Garber

garberName: Mary-Frances Garber ’86

Occupation: Genetic Counselor in private practice, Executive Director of New England Regional Genetics Group, per diem prenatal genetic counselor Newton Wellesley Hospital

Education: UR 1986 BS Molecular Genetics, Sarah Lawrence College 1988 MS Human Genetics

Current city/state of residence: Needham, MA

Family: Married to Mark Garber, ’86, daughters Olivia, Claudia and Emma

Community activities: Tennis instructor Needham Park and Recreation

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

As an undergrad I played on the women’s varsity tennis team, joined Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority, gave tours as a Meridian, and worked in a genetics laboratory.  Phi Sigma Sigma provided me with life-long friends and introduced me to philanthropy and volunteering for a cause, something one can do their entire life.  The opportunity to work in Dr. Prakash’s lab, introduced me to genetics research and allowed me to discover that it was not research or molecular genetics that I wanted to pursue, but human genetics.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

I can remember going to career services to inquire what I could do with a degree in molecular genetics.  I think it was there that I discovered the field of genetic counseling.  The staff at career services informed me that there were genetic counselors at Strong, with whom I was able to make contact. I arranged to do an independent study in the genetic counseling department and determined that this would be my career choice.

What did you do immediately after graduation?

After graduation I attended Sarah Lawrence College for two years to pursue a Masters in human genetics.  With this degree, I would be able to graduate and practice as a genetic counselor.  After working for a year I took the board certification exam to become a board certified genetic counselor.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

After working for eleven years at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in high risk obstetrics, I chose to stay at home with our three daughters.  I was fortunate to find the Executive Director position of the New England Regional Genetics Group, NERGG, Inc., which can be done from home.  Missing the contact with patients, I opened a private practice in 2010, focusing on supportive counseling and bereavement.  I help patients deal with their emotional responses to their genetic diagnosis or loss.  I also run support groups for various disease specific organizations and give lectures on various genetic topics.  Most recently I began working per diem as a prenatal genetic counselor again and continue to be amazed at the advancements in the science of my field.

Where would you like to be in five years?

In five years, I would love for my practice to be thriving.  At present there is not reimbursement for the services I provide, even though genetic counselors in Massachusetts are now licensed.  With reimbursement, it would be my hope that more patients could take care of their emotional needs and my services would be more utilized.

How are you still connected with the University?

I am connected to the University of Rochester by an umbilical cord!  Honestly, I feel extremely connected to the U of R, through deep friendships, my volunteer work as an admissions interviewer, by attending regional and local events, through sorority and by the communication that our school sends our way almost weekly.  Having attended Meliora Weekend in October for our 25th reunion, the sense of love and pride I feel for UR was ever more apparent.  Now with our oldest daughter as a sophomore, we are starting the second generation; it is genetic!!!