Student Profiles

Daniel Abd Assamad

Class of 2023

Hello, I am Daniel Assamad. I’m Syrian/Lebanese but was born and raised in a small country in the Middle East called Kuwait and then moved to Canada in 2015 to pursue my bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto (U of T) majoring in Genetics and Physiology with a minor in Psychology. Throughout my undergrad, I supplemented my studies with wet-lab research (and figured out it wasn’t for me), and leadership opportunities such as working as a Senior Residence Don (advisor) at U of T.

I then went on to do a Master of Health Science in Medical Genomics at U of T; this program provided me with robust genetics knowledge and skills including analyzing and interpreting genomic data. However, I still felt like I wanted to do more, and it was around then that I started looking more into Genetic Counselling programs. During my masters, I began to volunteer with Toronto Distress Centers as a helpline responder and started working with Dr. Robin Hayeems Lab at SickKids Hospital in Toronto. I continue to work in this role as a Clinical Project Research Assistant and I am currently assisting with multiple projects including the development of the Secondary Findings Impact Study and a patient-reported outcome measure, the P-GUIDE which captures the personal utility of genetic testing for patients/ parents.

These experiences, coupled with my fascination with the genetics of physiological processes, motivated me to pursue a Masters in Genetic Counselling. I feel very fortunate to be here and to have found a unique career that allows me to combine the things I am most passionate about!

Rebecca Candlish

Class of 2023

I was born in Oakville, ON, and moved to Kelowna, BC, when I was in middle school. Later, I attended the University of Victoria where I graduated with a BSc in Biochemistry with Co-operative Education (Co-op). During my time at UVic, I gained research experience in neurobiology, community genetics, and genomics. On one of my Co-op terms, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Laura Arbour in the UBC Community Genetics Research Program, which provided me with my first exposure to research in genetic counselling. After graduating from UVic, I returned to a neurobiology lab run by Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne, where I had completed a Co-op work term during my undergrad, to work as a research assistant for two years.

During my time as an undergrad student at UVic, I noticed that there was a lack of mentorship opportunities for science students, so I founded the UVic Women in Science Peer Mentorship Program in 2019 and led this program until 2021. I also gained experience with providing emotional support to people on the Alzheimer Society Dementia Helpline, Youthspace.ca, and the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre. Through my experience on the Dementia Helpline and working as a research assistant in a neurobiology lab, I became very interested in neurodegenerative diseases and the unique struggles that patients with these diseases face. I hope to continue to work with patients and families affected by neurodegenerative disease in my career as a genetic counsellor.

I first discovered genetic counselling in my third year of my undergraduate degree through searching for careers that could combine my interest in genetics with my desire to directly connect with patients. Through my experience working with Dr. Arbour and volunteering with the genetic counsellors at the Victoria General Hospital, I became sure that I wanted to pursue genetic counselling as my future career. I applied to genetic counselling programs in 2020 and 2021, and I was incredibly excited to be accepted into UBC’s program in 2021!

Outside of school, I enjoy hiking, biking, watercolour painting, and hanging out with my cat, Olive! I hope to one day hike to Machu Picchu, as my friend and I had planned to do this pre-COVID, but for now I am planning some local hikes with my classmates!

Patricia Gombas

Class of 2023

I was born and raised in Oakville, Ontario. I graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 2015 with a BSc. Honour’s Specialization in Genetics. During my undergrad, I was a research assistant in Dr. Kathleen Hill’s lab, and volunteered for a local crisis centre phoneline. Upon learning about genetic counselling, I sought out more experiences to educate myself and immerse myself in the field.

Following graduation, I worked for a bilingual Patient Support Program that served to facilitate access to a high cost medication for thousands of Canadians. Here, I gained first-hand insight into the inequities and barriers in healthcare t

hat affect so many Canadians, and grew passionate about working to address these issues. I’m hoping to complete my directed studies in this realm, and anticipate this special interest motivating my career as a genetic counsellor one day.

In my free time, I love to spend time outdoors, some of my favourites are activities are hiking and exploring beautiful Vancouver, playing beach volleyball or camping! I also love to cook – I particularly enjoy experimenting with new recipes, or putting my own creative touch on existing recipes.

I’m very excited to be joining the UBC Genetic Counselling Class of 2023, and begin working towards an exciting career as a Genetic Counsellor!

Lauren Piers

Class of 2023

I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta and completed my Bachelor of Science with a major in biology and minor in chemistry at The King’s University. During my undergrad, I completed my senior thesis investigating the changes in the solubility and post-translational modifications of lens crystallin proteins in zebrafish in response to cataract induction. This project highlighted my passion for molecular biology and genetics. Following graduation, I conducted research on calcium signalling and cholesterol metabolism in the department of biochemistry at the University of Alberta. The bulk of my research focused on studying the calcium-binding capacity of endoplasmic reticulum proteins involved in the unfolded protein response and the implications of disrupted calcium signalling in endoplasmic reticulum stress. Later, I moved into an advocacy role where I provided academic, social, and employment support to post-secondary students with developmental disabilities through an organization called Inclusion Alberta. This work sparked my passion for disability advocacy, which is an area I hope to explore within the field of genetic counselling in addition to biochemical and neurogenetics. During the time between completing my undergrad and applying to genetic counselling, I also volunteered as a crisis responder with both Kids Help Phone and the University of Alberta Sexual Assault Centre. In my free time, I enjoy exploring the outdoors, hiking, playing volleyball, and frequenting local coffee shops!

Ege Sarikaya

Class of 2023

I was born in Istanbul, Turkey and moved to Toronto, Canada when I was in grade 8. I completed my BSc degree at Western University in London, ON with honors specialization in Genetics. I studied gene expression changes in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) for my final thesis project. I learned about genetic counselling in my final year, and I immediately connected with GCs in Southern Ontario for coffee or informal meetings to learn more about the profession.

Then I completed my MSc degree at University of Toronto in Molecular Genetics where I studied a rare neuromuscular disorder, X-linked Myotubular myopathy. During my degree I volunteered with genetic counsellors at the Marvelle Koffler Breast Centre Clinic at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. I also volunteered at the Distress Centre Halton as a distress line volunteer and the Women’s Centre of Halton as a peer support volunteer. In the last year, I stayed in the neuromuscular field and worked as a research technologist and clinical research coordinator at the Sickkids Hospital in Toronto.

All these experiences led me to where I am today, and I couldn’t be happier to learn more and grow in UBC’s Genetic Counselling program. In my free time, I enjoy working out, going on long walks, hiking and trying out new coffee shops.

Jared Warden-Joseph

Class of 2023

Hi everyone! My name is Jared, and I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. I graduated from McGill University with a BSc in Anatomy and Cell Biology in 2021. I have always known that I was interested in both genetics and psychology and knew that I wanted to work in a client-facing profession. I’m extremely grateful to have found a career that is able to bridge all of these things. During my undergraduate degree, I was able to volunteer in two research labs, working to investigate the effects of a gene on the corpus callosum and also doing a scoping review on renal cell carcinoma in young adults. Both of these opportunities were extremely rewarding and valuable, allowing me to learn a great deal and gain hands-on experience. I also volunteered at McGill’s Peer Support Center which expanded my supporting skills and allowed for me to champion better mental health, one of my greatest passions. In the future, I would like to work in psychiatric and neurogenetics genetic counselling, while also doing research and advocacy in diversity, equity and inclusion in the genetics field. In my free time, I enjoy watching too many TV shows, singing and going on adventures.