As we continue to get to know the people who help make Myriad Genetics a leader in genetic testing, today we sit down with Nicole Lambert, President of Myriad Genetic Laboratories. As the company celebrates its 30th anniversary, Nicole just reached her own milestone — 20 years as a Myriad Genetics employee! We asked about her experience as a genetic counselor and what the company was like two decades ago.

Q: What’s your role at Myriad Genetics?

A: I’m responsible for our strategy in oncology and women’s health. That involves everything from understanding the best way to reach patients who might be appropriate for our genetic tests to educating and supporting physicians who are ordering those tests. I also oversee day-to-day operations of the labs that run and report those results, making sure we’re delivering excellent customer service and operating at full efficiency all day, every day.

Q: Where were you before?

A: I’m a genetic counselor, so I was actually a customer of Myriad Genetics. I started out my career seeing prenatal patients and cancer patients for pre-test and post-test counseling. Genetics interested me because I felt like it provided the biggest opportunity to practice preventive medicine. In most of medicine, you’re waiting until the patient has a disease and then doing a huge lift to try to fix that disease. Genetics will let you know what diseases you’re at risk for and give you strategies to manage that risk. The information can change the course of health for someone’s whole life.

Q: What brought you to Myriad Genetics?

A: I had known Myriad for a long time by then and always felt like it was a first-class company. I respected Myriad’s innovation and the quality of what they did. I was also looking for a company that I could really grow with and have an impact with. In my previous job, I saw patients all day, but I could only impact one patient at a time. At Myriad, I had the opportunity to educate physicians about genetic testing. That allowed me to influence entire physician practices and communities, making genetic testing much more accessible to patients.

Q: What was genetic testing like 20 years ago?

A: If you wanted to get a BRCA test, you had to go to a large academic medical center. Many patients couldn’t make that drive or didn’t live in a major city where they had access to that kind of facility. It was a huge barrier to genetic testing.

Q: How has genetic testing changed over time?

A: What I love is how much more acceptable it is. Twenty years ago, a lot of people didn’t want to bill their insurance and they wanted to be tested anonymously. I love that people are now open and honest about their experiences, they’re talking about it on social media. We’re reaching so many more women because this test isn’t locked up in a closet somewhere. It’s not something that has be to kept secret.

Another big change has been access. I joined the company at a point where we were talking about increased access to genetic testing, which at the time meant that you should be able to get this test from your trusted healthcare provider. Now we’ve come to the era of inclusivity as well. We’re launching a new version of riskScore validated for all ancestries. We’ve gotten to the place where genetic testing can be global and accessible. It’s a great milestone for my 20th anniversary.

Q: Wow, 20 years at Myriad Genetics. That’s huge! What’s kept you at the same company for so long?

A: As a leader in genetic testing, Myriad has given me a great opportunity to influence the way medicine is practiced. What I like about being in one place for so long is that you really learn a lot when you have to live with your decisions. Many people stay at a job for a couple of years and then move somewhere else, so they don’t necessarily see the impact of decisions they made. When you’ve been with one company for a long time, you live with those decisions. If something didn’t work out so well, you get the chance to go back and fix it.

Q: How different was Myriad Genetics when you first started?

A: I started out working in the field. I was based in Texas and was the only Myriad representative in my area. Today we have three different core businesses, each with its own sales team, medical team, and market access team. If we were to get together all the Myriad employees in Texas today, we’d need a large meeting room!

Q: What do you wish more people knew about genetic testing?

A: How empowering it is. A lot of people think they don’t want to know about their risk for developing a disease. But they don’t realize that if you know, you could really do something different. You’d be in the driver’s seat for your health and wellbeing. I’ve gone through this journey myself and was struck by how it empowered me to take control of my own destiny. I chose to have prophylactic surgery based on my genetic results. Now I know that breast cancer won’t take me away before my son’s graduation, and that’s because I took control.

Q: What will genetic testing look like 20 years from now?

A: We’re going to get to the place where sequencing is incredibly affordable and accessible. Everyone will be able to have their genome sequenced, and sequenced earlier in their life.