International Society
of Nurses in Genetics

Dedicated to fostering the scientific and professional growth of nurses in human genetics and genomics worldwide.
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meet our members 

At the International Society of Nurses in Genetics, we have a membership that varies widely in their path to genetics and their experiences.  Please take a moment to learn who we are by meeting some of our members.

Bobbi Laing, PhD, RN

Dr. Laing is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Nursing at the University of Auckland in New Zealand (NZ) and is an emerging expert in nutrigenomics and health promotion. Dr. Laing recently completed her PhD thesis entitled ‘Key genotypes and the response to nutrient supplementation in Chron’s disease' and is the project manager for two collaborative research projects at the University of Auckland. Prior to her current position, Dr. Laing held a variety of impressive community-centered positions that have informed her goals as a nurse researcher. Dr. Laing was recruited to ISONG in 2017 by Dr. Gigi Lim. Dr. Laing is an important member of our community and very actively involved in the initiatives of the Global Membership Committee. Dr. Laing and Dr. Lim are currently collaborating to develop a research project assessing gaps in nurses’ knowledge of genomics. Their overarching goal is to develop an appropriate curriculum that can be built into the School of Nursing at the University of Auckland to enable nurses to effectively apply genomic knowledge to their clinical practice and improve patient health outcomes. Thank you, Dr. Laing, for your hard work and commitment to ISONG and the promotion of nursing science around the world. 

Jessica Anderson, APRN, WHNP, AGN-BC

My story begins in 1986. My mother was 31 years old. She was married with two small girls, 8 and 4 years old. She found a lump in her breast….but 31 year olds don’t get cancer. It must be benign. She was told to watch it for a few months to see if it “goes away.” Two months later she returned to her doctor and pressed for further evaluation. A mammogram lead her to biopsy where she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 31. She was treated with a radical left breast mastectomy and removal of 19 lymph nodes. All nodes were negative. She came home to her young family with a scar and staples where her left breast had been.

Fast forward four years, my mother, now 35 years old, has 11 and 7 year old daughters. Life is busy. She is a math teacher and volleyball coach. We live at the gym. Her teams of girls are my idols. I get off the bus every day at volleyball practice where I shag balls, toss for drills, and work on my own developing skills.

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Cheedy Jaja, PhD, MPH, MN, MSN, PMHNP-BC, RN

ISONG Member, Dr. Cheedy Jaja, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Cincinnati, is a man on a mission to create better awareness of the disease in Sierra Leone.  There is growing recognition that sickle cell disease (SCD) represents an increasing global health burden. While remarkable progress has been made toward a better understanding and improved survival of patients with SCD in the United States, the fate of sickle cell disease babies in Sierra Leone is largely determined even before they are born. Up to 90 percent of the babies will die before their 5th birthday because of anemia, malaria and bacterial infections.

In July, 2017,  Dr. Jaja was able to establish the first specialty clinic for sickle cell disease in the country. The Sickle Cell clinic provides free monthly health exams for 120 children with the disease. Click here for the complete article and for more photos 

Masakazu Nishigaki, RN, CGC, PhD

Dr. Nishigaki is an Associate Professor in the School of Medicine at Kyoto University in Japan and is a registered nurse and certified genetic counselor. Dr. Nishigaki is interested in behavioral change and genetic risk information of common disease, as well as genomic health literacy. 

Dr. Nishigaki has been a primary investigator and co-investigator on several grants examining genetic information in clinical practice. He is also a member of the Japanese Society for Nurses in Genetics and is very active on their education committee. Dr. Nishigaki is working to build a model of curriculum for genetic nursing education for undergraduates in Japan. Thank you, Dr. Nishigaki for your hard work and commitment to ISONG. 

Sheila A. Alexander, PhD, RN, FCCM

Congratulations to Dr. Sheila Alexander for receiving the Nightingale Award of Pennsylvania for Nursing Research. 

This is an award for exceptional nursing research and the broad reaching impact of her research and mentoring work.  Click here for the complete program  information.

Andrew Dwyer, PhD, FNP-BC

Dr. Dwyer is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Lausanne, Institute of Higher Education & Research in Healthcare and the University Hospital of Lausanne (CHUV). 

Dr. Dwyer supervises masters and doctoral students and teaches courses in advanced clinical assessment, family systems, and is a guest lecturer in genetic disorders of sexual development.  With over 16 years of clinical and research experience, Dr. Dwyer's work focuses on patients with chronic endocrine conditions and genetic disorders. His interests include genetic literacy, transitional care for adolescents with chronic health problems, and using technology to facilitate and extend the reach of nursing care. 

Dr Dwyer has recently joined the faculty of the Connell School of Nursing at Boston College and is repatriating to the United States this summer. Thank you Dr. Dwyer for your hard work and commitment to ISONG. 

Phyllis Everett,  MSN, RN, AOCN, APNG, NP-C

Congratulations to Phyllis Everett who recently started working at the Duke Cancer Center in the Breast Cancer Clinic in Durham, North Carolina with Paul Kelly Marcom, MD. Dr. Marcom was the Medical Director for the genetics program from 2009-2015 and has a research interest in genetics. 

Her role will be to care for patients in treatment and who are being seen for follow-up of treated disease. They are hoping to be able to incorporate my genetics background into the clinic setting. 

Phyllis is also opening her own practice, Sapient Health Services to provide genetic services in Virginia and North Carolina via consult in person or via telemedicine. This includes pharmacogenomics through a company called Imperium. 

Carolyn Allen, DNP, CRNP-F, MS-Genetics 

I graduated from GWU in 2010 from the Family Nurse Practitioner program. This is my third career change, or should I say transition. I was a genetic counselor for a few years before going to nursing school. After completing my BSN, I worked in hospital settings for medical/surgical, psychiatrics, and pulmonary for a few years. As soon as an opportunity availed itself, I finally came back to maternal child health. The bulk of my nursing career (15 years) was in-patient obstetrics. My long term vision had been to combine the advanced practice nursing career with the genetics component and be a nurse educator in a university hospital setting.

On a personal note I was born and raised in the District of Columbia. I am married to my high school "friend" and we have four children ranging ages 25 to 15 years old. We live in the suburbs of Maryland (just minutes away from Washington, D.C). I presently work as an independent contractor in a variety of settings: ob/gyn office, urgent care, and veteran's disability claims.

I graduated with my doctorate in May 2015 in Nursing Education and additionally I have completed DNP courses in the palliative care tract. I have completed courses in the nursing education tract of the George Washington University DNP program to better prepare myself with teaching methodology and design, curriculum theory, and understand adult learning theory. 

My experience in perinatal loss as a nurse impacted me on many levels. Some of the infants had genetic conditions or birth defects thus I felt uniquely capable of caring for the families. My thoughts were that what I learn in alleviating pain and suffering can be translated to any setting.

The best feature of nursing education and other health related professions is that it not only impacts that individual, but everyone with whom they come in contact (e.g. pyramid affect). 

Sylvia S. Estrada, DNP, MSN, MSHCM, WHNP-BC, CBCN 

Ms. Estrada is the Clinical Program Coordinator at the Saul and Joyce Brandman Breast Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She is nationally certified as a: Women's Health Care Nurse Practitioner; Certified Breast Care Nurse; and Certified Clinical Research Professional. Her current clinical care and research interests involve the screening of women who are at high risk for breast cancer and providing genetic counseling for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.     

Recently, Sylvia joined the American Cancer Society San Gabriel Leadership Council  which is a community-based volunteer leadership group that supports the Society’s efforts to save more lives from cancer by increasing donations, serving patients facing cancer, and promoting cancer prevention and early detection guidelines in the 47 communities that make up the San Gabriel Valley.

Ms. Estrada received her nursing degree from Los Angeles County /University of Southern California (LAC/USC) School of Nursing and her Bachelor's in Nursing from California State University, Los Angeles. She earned a Master's degree in Healthcare Management from California State University, Los Angeles and a Master's degree in Nursing from California State University, Long Beach. She received her Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) from Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California. 

Ms. Estrada demonstrates a strong commitment to her volunteer work both locally and internationally.  She is the past President for the California Association for Nurse Practitioners (CANP) for the Greater Pasadena Chapter, Newsletter Editor and Legislative Representative for the Greater Los Angeles Oncology Nursing Society, member of the San Gabriel Valley Leadership Council for the American Cancer Society and QIC member for the Saban Community Clinic in Los Angeles.  Internationally, she provides service and medical care to the underserved populations across Central American countries, travelling abroad annually to address, deliver and manage gynecological and obstetric health care needs of impoverished women.  

Cheryl R. Brubaker, DNP, MSN, FNP-BC, RN 

Cheryl is a primary care provider with DaVita Medical Group, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. DaVita Medical Group is the largest independent group of medical providers in the United States. Dr. Brubaker works to incorporate genomics in to daily primary care practice. Dr. Brubaker also teaches part time with the University of New Mexico in the FNP and DNP programs.

Prior to DaVita Medical Group, Dr. Brubaker was an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois. She received her BSN and first MSN from the University of New Mexico in 1979 and 1998 respectively. Subsequently she earned a second MSN and DNP from the University of St. Francis, where she studied under Dr.'s Deena Nardi and Linda Rooda. She came to the NIH campus Summer 2013, where she developed her DNP project study with some guidance from Dr. Kathy Calzone. Her DNP project was the "Epigenetics of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Women, and PTSD in Women Veterans" which earned her the Research Award for the University DNP program.

Dr. Brubaker has worked in different hospital settings, including just about every intensive care there is, maternal child units (L&D, nursery and NICU, and postpartum), emergency care and was certified in battlefield nursing during her years in the USAF. She was deployed for Desert Shield/Desert Storm and have served on active duty, as well as in the Air National Guard. She has worked with the public schools and specialized in the area of chronic illness and disability, as well as serving as a resource to schools regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act as they relate to individuals with disability.

Dr. Brubaker worked diligently to develop the role of the Nurse Practitioner within the schools and hired by the school system as a complement to School Based Healthcare Clinics. She has been active in Sigma Theta Tau, New Mexico Nurse Practitioner Council, American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, National Association of School Nurses and the New Mexico School Nurses Association, as well as PEO a philanthropic organization supporting the education of women around the world. She has held offices in many of these organizations.

Dr. Brubaker has published several articles and chapters in text books. She is a mother of four and grandmother of five and worked fulltime while raising her family and completing the two masters and a doctoral degree. She has broad interests which certainly include genetics, epigenetics and genomics, as well as genealogy.

Recently, with the ISONG Congress being held in Dublin, Ireland, she took the opportunity to spend two weeks exploring her family genealogy and tracing family roots deep in Ireland's history!

Rebecca S. Koszalinski, PhD, RN, CRRN, CMSRN, HT(ASCP) 

Rebecca is an Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She began her healthcare career by first earning a diploma in histotechnology at St. Joseph's School of Histotechnology through a joint venture with the Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield, Wisconsin. There, she discovered a deep love for science. After briefly working in the pathology lab at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, she returned to Wisconsin to pursue a degree in nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Later, she completed a Master's in Education and a PhD at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL. Following completion of the PhD, she attended the Summer Genetics Institute at the National Institutes of Health (Class of 2015). It was there that Rebecca remembered her passion for science. Her love of investigational work related to causes and results of illness and disability was rekindled. She notes that Histotechnology and nursing actually have a great deal in common in that they are professions chosen by people who are problem solvers.

Rebecca is a Certified Rehabilitation Nurse and has studied and worked extensively in this area. She used knowledge about this population to develop a communication application specifically designed to address the needs of patients when hospitalized and unable to verbalize their needs. This application called Speak for Myself™ is in further development through an internal grant at UTK. The updated communication application will undergo further testing for validation. Rebecca is now beginning her exploration of genomics in relationship to disability.

Rebecca is a member of ISONG and is the new Co-Chair of the Development Committee. She is also a member of the Southern Research Nursing Society, Sigma Theta Tau International and Gamma Chi Chapter, Omicron Delta Kappa, and AAAS/Science Program for Excellence. She is a Certified Medical Surgical Nurse and a Certified Heart Math Trainer. Rebecca has written several publications in both rehabilitation-focused publications and in the caring sciences, and has written competencies for Association of Rehabilitation Nurses.

In addition to academic and research life, Rebecca is the CEO of Outdoor Quests Corporation. She is the proud mother of a 24-year-old son, Brad, and has been happily married to Scott for 25 years.

Karlene Brantley Coleman, BSN, MN, 

Karlene is a Nurse/Certified Genetic Counselor at the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University. After completing her undergraduate programs at the School of Nursing, Medical College of Georgia, she went on to graduate school at Emory University. Karlene became interested in the field of "Genetics Nursing" during her time at Emory when she took a genetics course while completing her Master of Nursing in 1975.

Since 1982, Karlene has been a certified genetic counselor and beginning in 2006 she has been the course coordinator for the genetics courses on the graduate and undergraduate levels at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University. In February of 2015, she attained the Advanced Genetics Nursing, AGN-BC. In addition to these accomplishments, Karlene is an author or co-author on numerous peer reviewed articles.

She is a member of four distinct professional groups: American Society of Human Genetics, American College of Medical Genetics, International Society of Nurses in Genetics, and International 22q11.2 Society, where she is a founding member.

Currently, Karlene is a part of the International 22q11.2 Deletion Research Consortium and is on a Williams syndrome research project. Additionally, she is working on a new project looking for autism features in 22q11.2 deletion patients and their cardiac, calcium, and immune profiles.

Karlene loves learning new things and is motivated to help families with chronic genetic diseases seek resources. She created a video to help teach nursing and medical students about Cystic Fibrosis and what the families face after leaving the clinical setting. It is available on and is open access meaning that anyone can use it. Click here to view the video.

She enjoys seeing how active nurses are in genetics and thinks the annual conference is a great resource as are the webinars. Karlene takes great pride in her profession as a nurse and genetic counselor and has the desire to help her patients. Her greatest satisfaction is teaching nursing students about genetics because it is the future of medicine.

Theresa A. Koleck, PhD(c), BSN, RN

Theresa is a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. Currently in her fourth year of doctoral studies, Theresa has shown a strong commitment to a research career in genomic influences of cancer- and cancer treatment-related symptomatology. She has participated in many genomic educational activities throughout her doctoral education, including the 2012 National Institute of Nursing Research's (NINR) Summer Genetics Institute.

In December 2013, Theresa was awarded a National Research Service Award from the NINR for her dissertation project entitled, "Cognitive Function and Breast Cancer: Genomics and Disease Characteristics" (F31NR014590). Prior to receiving her F31, Theresa was supported as a Predoctoral Scholar through the NINR funded T32 entitled, "Targeted Research and Academic Training Program for Nurses in Genomcis" (T32NR009759). Theresa's dissertation work investigates associations between disease-related factors of breast cancer, including both traditional clinicopathologic tumor features of breast cancer and DNA variability within genes used to clinically evaluate the biology of breast cancer, and cognitive function in postmenopausal women with and receiving treatment for early stage breast cancer. She has also received funding to support her dissertation project and doctoral studies from the American Cancer Society (DSCN-14-076-01-SCN), Nightingale Awards of Pennsylvania, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) Eta Chapter, and University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing.

Theresa was invited to speak on "Use of DNA repair and oxidative stress gene risk/protective scores to predict cognitive function in women with breast cancer" as part of the Research Oncology – The Science of Symptoms symposium at the 2014 ISONG World Congress on Nursing and Genomics. Theresa has also presented her work at the Oncology Nursing Society and Eastern Nursing Research Society conferences.

In addition to her academic commitments, Theresa is the secretary of her school's Doctoral Nursing Student Organization, a member of the STTI Eta Chapter Leadership Succession Committee, and volunteers in the cancer survivorship community. She is also a member of the ISONG World Congress Planning Committee and is excited to be chairing the "Poster Blitz" session – new to the Congress in 2015 and due to popular demand also offered in 2016 and 2017!. She hopes to connect with many of you there!

Jeanine Seguin Santelli, PhD, APRN, AGPCNP-BC, FAAN

At the International Society of Nurses in Genetics we have a membership that varies widely in their path to genetics and their experiences. One of these we'd like you to meet is Jeanine Seguin Santelli, PhD, APRN, AGPCNP-BC, FAAN. Currently Professor and Chair of Nursing at Nazareth College, Jeanine is fulfilling her two childhood dreams, to be a nurse and a teacher.

She decided to enter the field of "Genetics Nursing" after attending the 1998 Summer Genetics Institute for Nursing Faculty at Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. People who have greatly influenced her career are: Marilyn Herbert-Ashton, Dr. Rita Monson, and Dr. Ginny Coombs.

While currently involved in research as a biostatistician for physician colleagues in oncology, Jeanine's main motivation in her current position is seeing students succeed and become fantastic nurses. She was induced to seek her specialty certification as she sees it as a mark of excellence in the field and Jeanine is nothing if not a perfectionist - anything less is unacceptable. She really enjoys the ISONG conferences and how much she learns there. Jeanine loves doing data analysis in her job - an ah-ha moment is the best. As for making a contribution to the field of Genetics, Jeanine is involved in the credentialing of genetic nurses and is a past ISONG Board Members at Large.

Patricia Hershberger, PhD, RN, FNP-BC 

Dr. Hershberger is an Associate Professor of Nursing and an Affiliate Professor of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).   She has a long-standing interest in helping genetically high-risk individuals and families manage reproductive decisions that involve emerging genetic/genomic biotechnologies such as Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). Patricia has experienced first-hand the multiple challenges of making reproductive decisions when parents are aware of their high-genetic-risk status. She hopes her research will ease these challenges for others. In her recent publication on the topic, co-authored with graduate student, Kathyrn Drazba, MPH and Michele Kelley, ScD, MSW, MA the authors explicate the financial concerns that high-genetic-risk couples in the United States face and how couples try to overcome these concerns in relation to PGD use. The article can be accessed at Dr. Hershberger also brings her enthusiasm for genetics/genomics nursing research and practice to her role as member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Mental Health Professional’s Scientific Review Committee. Patricia is the first nurse elected to this committee and will assume the role of chair in 2016.

This fall, Dr. Hershberger and other ISONG members including former president Kathleen Sparbel, PhD, FNP-BC and new member, Mary Dawn Koenig, PhD, RN, CNM along with Aleeca F. Bell, PhD, RN, CNM and Anne M. Fink, PhD, RN are launching a new graduate genetics/genomics research course at UIC. The course will focus on principles of clinical and molecular genetics and incorporate aspects of clinical counseling and bioethics.

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