Ana Sarmiento ’12
Lives in Boston, MA
Originally from Port Chester, NY
Ana Sarmiento is a genetic counselor for Myriad Genetics. Her career goal of providing genetic counseling services, particularly to medically underserved populations with an emphasis on Spanish speakers and immigrants, was inspired by her own family experience, The daughter of a Guatemalan immigrant, she discovered she had a talent for translating complex issues.
She earned her graduate degree in genetic counseling at Brandeis University. During that time, she conducted her clinical rotations in Santiago, Chile at a cancer clinic where she learned the role of the genetic counselor—but in Spanish.
How did your experience here prepare you for life after Purchase?
Purchase is well known for having a diverse student body; there are students representing all spectra of race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, and self-expression. There is great pride on campus about this fact, and it is hard to ignore.
At Brandeis, there is a focus on disability and how sometimes what we consider ‘disabilities’ may only feel like differences to individuals that possess them. Ultimately, the moral of the psychosocial lessons we learn here is that identities can span widely and across many factors, and that good counseling happens only when a person feels seen and heard. This can only happen upon acknowledging, accepting, and validating what makes us different.
I can’t think of another school that would have primed me for these challenging but enriching experiences.
Which faculty member made a difference in your life/career?
There are certainly many people I would like to mention: Linda Bastone, Sabina Dericco, Monika Eckenberg, Stephen Cooke, Elizabeth Middleton, and Elliot Abrams. Each one of them has a very special place in my heart and has contributed in their own ways to my success.
However, of all the faculty I worked with during my time at Purchase, Mark Jonas had the strongest influence on me as a student. He thought outside the box when it came to delivering course content. He was very thoughtful about his teaching approach and as a result, created an environment where students felt they could ask questions, make mistakes, and sincerely have fun while learning.
I cannot express how highly I regard all of the above-mentioned faculty and how deeply I owe my success to them, I would not have chosen different instructors if I had to do it all again.
What would you cite as your program’s greatest assets?
I truly believe the faculty is the greatest asset.
It is no secret that various institutions have limited resources for their science programs. Despite these barriers, a student that wants to succeed in the natural sciences at Purchase need look no further than to their instructors.
They truly go to any length necessary to provide the learning experiences and environments necessary to get their students where they want to go.
What aspect of the program or your experience here had a lasting impact?
There are two specific experiences I would like to mention that I think had a direct impact on my success in graduate school for genetic counseling.
The first is Biology Lab, run by Sabina Dericco and Mark Jonas, where we performed PCR and subsequently gel electrophoresis. This lab in particular was instrumental in creating a foundation of knowledge that is crucially necessary for understanding the many aspects of genetics, genomics, and genetic/genomic technologies.
Secondly, Elliot Abrams’ Developmental Biology course.
I will not lie, it was hard; really, really hard. However, I put every ounce of effort into it and I am so happy that I did. It was probably the most “worth it” class I have ever taken.
It provided a profound understanding of embryology and growth that proved to be invaluable in genetic counseling graduate school courses.
Anything else you’d like a prospective student to know about attending Purchase?
The only thing I can think to say is how much Purchase means to me. I found friends here; teachers that authentically cared about me.
It was a place where I found my true potential.
I know those lines are touted by many and all of the time, but I don’t know how else to communicate how much I truly mean it.
If a student genuinely wants to succeed at Purchase, they can.