Keep Persisting

Author | Lauren Crawford

Photo courtesy of Wendy Uhlmann

There are times when history gets made quietly, marked not by bold headlines but by small, significant changes. Wendy Uhlmann (M.S. 1987), clinical professor of internal medicine and human genetics, made that kind of history last year: She became the first genetic counselor and the first faculty member at the U-M Medical School to achieve the rank of clinical professor with a master's degree.

"I kept knocking at the door," she says. "I kept persisting."

Uhlmann earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Oberlin College, and, during a one-month winter term project with Thomas Gelehrter, M.D., professor emeritus of human genetics and of internal medicine; and genetic counselor Diane Baker, M.S., the founder of the U-M Genetic Counseling Program, became enamored of the field and its possibilities. A year later, in 1984, she began work as a cytogenetics technologist in the U-M Division of Pediatric Genetics.

After that, she never looked back.

"It has been gratifying to see the field evolve and grow, at U-M and internationally, with the expansion of genetic services and genetic testing into different medical specialties." 

— Wendy Uhlmann, M.S. 

In 1987, Uhlmann earned her master's in human genetics from U-M. She worked as a prenatal genetic counselor at Wayne State University and, in 1993, accepted a position as a genetic counselor/clinic coordinator at the U-M Medical Genetics Clinic. She has served as an executive faculty member of the Genetic Counseling Graduate Training Program since 1997.

Uhlmann established herself as a leader and mentor, and has served as president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) from 1999–2000 and on national committees; co-edited A Guide to Genetic Counseling, used internationally in genetic counseling graduate programs; received several leadership awards, including NSGC's lifetime achievement award; and actively participates in research, writing, and teaching.

"It has been gratifying to see the field evolve and grow, at U-M and internationally, with the expansion of genetic services and genetic testing into different medical specialties," she says.

Above all, Uhlmann stresses that her story is a Michigan story — and her time here and at Oberlin gave her the tools to succeed. She is also honored to have paved the way for others: Her genetic counselor colleague, Monica Marvin (M.S. 1994), was recently appointed clinical associate professor. "There is now a pathway for genetic counselors and other allied health professionals actively engaged in clinical care, teaching, and research to seek faculty appointments, and to receive academic recognition for the work they're doing." 

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