Sonja Higgins, MS, LCGC
Joined Metis: August 2017
Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC
Passions:Most of my time involves taking care of my two small children and spending time with my husband. Getting to experience life with those people brings me much joy. I also enjoy reading, cooking and being active in my church.
Favorite Specialty: Prenatal Counseling
What influenced your decision to become a genetic counselor?
I heard about genetic counseling as an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But the first day I shadowed a genetic counselor was the day I knew genetic counseling was right for me. I saw the care and compassion given to pregnant women with an increased chance of a child with a genetic condition as well as the individualized teaching skills she used. The focus of providing technical information while attending to the impact of that information was different than anything I had observed in other areas of medicine.
Three pieces of advice I would give to students interested in becoming a genetic counselor:
I had the pleasure to be the Assistant Director of the Genetic Counseling Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for ten years. During that time, I talked with many prospective applicants about ways to prepare for a career in genetic counseling.
1. The first piece of advice I offer is to shadow/observe genetic counselors to obtain a first-hand understanding of the field.
2. If shadowing confirms an interest, try to obtain an internship in a place where you will have on-going exposure to genetic counseling.
3. Lastly, volunteer for an organization where you can obtain training and practice in counseling skills, such as a crisis counseling center.
My specialty areas include prenatal and pediatric genetic counseling as well as education of genetic counseling students.
Most recent interesting case:
One of my recent cases involved genetic testing for an 8-year-old child with chronic pancreatitis. In talking with the mother, she described the repeated hospitalizations for her daughter beginning at age 6, her many and ongoing symptoms and her pain episodes. And yet, the mother described the girl’s positive outlook and hopeful spirit, and she herself seemed to share those attitudes. The interaction reminded me of the resilience so many patients have in the face of genetic disease. I was inspired and admired the incredible coping skills families develop when their world changes due to genetic disease.
What do you enjoy about working at Metis?
Working for Metis and providing telehealth services has been enjoyable because of the opportunity to help patients who may not otherwise have access to services. Also, Metis is flexible and hires part-time employees who can work from home.