Interview with Marjan Champine

In May 2015, Marjan Champine, MS, LCGC, won the fifth annual UUGPGC Teaching Award, which is conferred by the second year students and supported by the Division of Medical Genetics. We sat down with Marjan to talk with her about this award and her role in the UUGPGC.

What are the greatest challenges and rewards of teaching?

One of the greatest challenges of teaching for me is to continuously identify creative approaches to enhance the learning environment. While the fields of genetics and genetic counseling are constantly evolving, teaching strategies often remain the same. This is why I enjoy taking classes and talking with other instructors about approaches that have been successful so I can work on improving the learning environment in both my classroom and our clinical rotation every year. These approaches aim to continuously engage students and enhance their enthusiasm for and understanding of the material. One of the greatest rewards of teaching is watching students as they experience that fantastic “ah-ha” moment signaling that they are beginning to understand a particularly complex topic or process. That alone makes it all worth it.

Compared to teaching in general, what is different about teaching genetic counseling students?

I have always enjoyed teaching genetic counseling graduate students because of their intense motivation to learn. In general, it is not enough for our students to simply understand a concept on a surface level; rather they are constantly thinking, researching, and asking questions striving to develop a deeper understanding of the material being presented. I have also always appreciated their willingness and eagerness to delve into the material regardless of their initial level of interest in oncology.

What have you learned from your students?

If I listed everything I have learned from my students, the list would be too long! I will say that the greatest lesson that I continue to learn from my students is their perspectives. When you have been practicing for many years you often begin to look at cases from one angle. However, whenever I present these or similar cases in class, there are always students who enlighten me by opening my eyes to a completely different way of thinking about an old case.

What do you like about being a genetic counselor?

My favorite part of being a genetic counselor is that after six years I am still learning new things every day – thanks to new advances in technology, our expanding knowledge of genetics, my patients, study participants, and students. This profession never gets old!