Even before Myriad Genetics launched its first genetic test, we knew that our ability to help patients and physicians would depend on having access to a valuable perspective: the expertise and knowledge of a genetic counselor. That’s why Susan Manley joined our team in 1996. Now the Senior Vice President of Medical Services, she is a certified genetic counselor and has served on the board of directors for the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

Q: What’s your role at Myriad Genetics?

A: I lead a team of about 65 genetic counselors who are involved in various support roles for Myriad and all of the products we offer. We support our organization, healthcare providers, and patients. The teams I oversee write clinical content to help providers understand how they can act on the information we provide them; support our products by answering questions about a test or what a result means; and work with patients either before or after genetic testing about how that information might guide their medical management. We also work closely with our laboratory colleagues to ensure that the right tests are ordered for each patient.

Q: How did you get started on this career path?

A: I was always fascinated by biology and how our bodies work. In college I took a genetics course and really fell in love with the science. My professor suggested that I shadow a genetic counselor, a profession I’d never even heard of before. When I did it, I was hooked. I loved that this job was really focused on people rather than on laboratory procedures.

Q: What brought you to Myriad Genetics?

A: After graduate school, I applied to a number of jobs. I got a call back from Myriad saying that my background and laboratory work were really interesting. At the interview, I learned more about what they were planning to do; this was before they had launched their first commercial test for BRCA1 and BRCA2. They wanted a genetic counselor to help support the product. At the time, going into industry was not a typical career path for genetic counselors. But this team was so passionate about what they were going to do and so committed to having someone with my training at the table. The environment seemed like such a good fit for me. Since then I have always felt like the work I do at Myriad helps so many patients.

Q: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the past 25 years?

A: When we started, the uptake for genetic testing was very slow. Providers didn’t understand enough, patients were afraid and not sure how it would help them, and insurance companies did not pay for it. Myriad’s goal all along has been to chip away at those things. Today, genetics has made its way into mainstream medicine and genetic testing is a covered benefit, so most patients don’t have to pay for it. The tides have really shifted.

One thing that hasn’t changed is our team’s commitment to what we do. The people at Myriad are passionate about making a difference for patients in mental health, cancer, and women’s health. The people I interact with every day are amazing.

Q: What’s something you wish more people knew about genetic testing?

A: I wish more people understood that it is accessible to them. Some people still believe it’s expensive. But for many people, genetic testing is accessible when it’s relevant to them and it’s a covered benefit. It can really help influence choices in terms of medical management.

Q: If you weren’t at Myriad Genetics, where would you be?

A: I think I would have gone into some sort of education role, hoping to get people excited about science.