Meet Our Genetic Counselors

Katherine Kim, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor Manager, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Ms. Kim received her Master of Science in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 2001, she has been a genetic counselor with the Division of Genetics, Birth Defects and Metabolism at Lurie Children’s, formally Children’s Memorial. While Ms. Kim serves as the manager of the genetic counseling team, she continues her clinical practice in Genetics, specializing in the mucopolysaccharidoses and neurofibromatosis. Ms. Kim also enjoys teaching and mentoring students, participating in clinic research projects and advocating for patients and families with rare genetic conditions.

“As a genetic counselor, I find fulfillment in the relationships I build with patients and families. As much as patients have learned from me, I have also learned from my patients. The families I work with have taught me what defines bravery, resilience, and hope.”   

Casey Brew, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor I, Center for Genomics, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Center for Genomics, Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Casey received her Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from Northwestern University in 2017 and has experience in pediatric and cardiology genetic counseling. She joined the Lurie Children's team as a laboratory genetic counselor at the Center for Genomics within the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and is involved with variant interpretation, panel development, and various research initiatives through Lurie Children's in-house Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory. Casey will also be working with the Cardiology team to provide cardiomyopathy counseling for patients and families.

“As a genetic counselor both in the lab and in clinic, I love being able to take the complex world of genetics and make it into something that is accessible and digestible for people of any background.”

Emily M. Bryant, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor II, Neurology, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Emily became the first genetic counselor in the Epilepsy Center at Lurie Children’s in 2017. She received her Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from Brandeis University in Massachusetts and has been a board certified, licensed genetic counselor since 2015. She is integral to Epilepsy Center research efforts, works closely with Northwestern pharmacology and epilepsy genetics research programs, and mentors genetic counseling students.

“I love having the opportunity to sit down with my patients and their families to help them understand and learn about the connection between genetics and epilepsy. The patients and families I work with continue to inspire me with their resilience, strength, and determination.”

Valerie Castelluccio, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor I, Genetics, Birth Defects Metabolism, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

Valerie graduated with a Master of Science in Medical and Molecular Genetics from Indiana University Medical School in 2019 and was certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) in August of 2019. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Michigan State University in 2016. She started her career here at Lurie Children’s in the Division of Genetics, Birth Defects, and Metabolism in 2019. She provides general pediatric genetic counseling, with an interest and focus on ophthalmology genetics. 

The area of genetics intrigues me because of all the very recent scientific discoveries in this area. I decided to pursue genetic counseling because I would be able to witness first-hand what these recent discoveries can do for children, with a genetic condition, and their families. Being able to work closely with these families and being able to educate myself, and them, on new discoveries are the highlights of this career.” 

Sara Cherny, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor III, Cardiology, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Instructor of Pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Sara is proud to be the first genetic counselor in the Section of Cardiology here at Lurie Children's. Her role is a combination of patient care, program development, and research. She graduated with her Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from the University of Minnesota in 2007, and has experience in pediatric, prenatal, and cardiovascular genetic counseling. Her wide range of experience allows her to provide comprehensive care for patients in the Cardiovascular Genetics Clinic.

“I love all things genetics and all things about the heart, but most importantly, I love the opportunity to help patients and families learn about how genetics affects their health and their lives.”

Kristin Clemenz, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor III, Hematology, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Instructor of Pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Kristin graduated with her Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from Brandeis University in 1996, and has been the genetic counselor in Hematology at Lurie Children’s since 1998. Her specialty is working with patients who have sickle cell diseasehemophiliathalassemia, and other inherited blood disorders. She enjoys developing long-term relationships with her patients and their families, and provides education and support regarding their blood disorders through the years. Kristin also teaches and mentors students as part of the Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling at Northwestern University. 

“I am honored to have been a part of the Hematology team for so many years and to have been able to provide education and counseling about genetics and get to know our wonderful patients.”

Lenika De Simone

Genetic Counselor I, Center for Genomics at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Lenika De Simone received her Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from Northwestern University in 2018. She joined the Lurie Children's team as a laboratory genetic counselor at the Center for Genomics. She also serves as a clinical genetic counselor at the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) clinic.

“I’m excited to form part of such a passionate and motivated team at Lurie Children’s. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to work on both a clinical side, helping families navigate difficult times due to genetic conditions, and on a lab utilization side, where I can help providers make the most of what genetics has to offer.”

Allison Goetsch, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor II, Genetics, Birth Defects Metabolism, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Clinical Instructor, Department of Pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Core Faculty, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Allison is the clinic coordinator for the Neurofibromatosis Clinic and provides genetic counseling to patients and families in the Gender Sex Development Program. She graduated with her Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from Northwestern University in 2014. In 2016, Allison was the “CodeTalker” award winner – a patient nominated national award for excellence in genetic counseling. In addition to her clinical role, Allison conducts research related to fertility preservation and the transition from pediatric to adult care. She also advocates for improved access to genetic services and genetic privacy as President of the Illinois Society of Genetic Professionals.  

I enjoy building relationships with families and instilling confidence in children and adolescents with genetic conditions to take charge of their own health and accomplish their life goals.”

Cassandra Heald, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor II, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Instructor of Pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Cassie Heald received her Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from the University of Cincinnati in 2015 and was certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) in 2016. She started her career at Lurie Children’s in the Division of Genetics, Birth Defects, and Metabolism where she provides pediatric genetic counseling services with a focus on general genetics and cystic fibrosis newborn screening. Additionally, she is an active member of the Illinois Society of Genetic Professionals (ISGP) and provides clinical supervision to genetic counseling graduate students and medical students.

“I am fascinated by genetics and enjoy working in a field where I am constantly challenged and have the opportunity to learn new things every day. As a genetic counselor, I love helping patients and families process complex information and understand how genetics can play a role in their health.”

Rachel E. Hickey, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor I, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Rachel graduated with her Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in May 2017, and was certified by the ABGC in August 2017. Following graduation, Rachel completed a genetic counseling fellowship in lysosomal storage diseases in the Division of Genetics, Birth Defects, and Metabolism at Lurie Children’s, focusing on diagnosis, management, treatment and newborn screening for this group of complex diseases. She went on to join the team as a pediatric genetic counselor, specializing in lysosomal storage disease and metabolic leukodystrophy, as well as practicing general pediatric genetics. She currently serves as the clinic coordinator for the Leukodystrophy Clinic and the clinic coordinator of the 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome Clinic at Lurie Children’s. Rachel is actively involved with the Leukodystrophy Care Network, Illinois Department of Health Lysosomal Storage Disease Subcommittee, and the Illinois Society of Genetic Professionals (ISGP). She also provides clinical supervision to genetic counseling graduate students and medical students rotating through the hospital.

“My greatest clinical interest is in treatment of genetic conditions. It is an extraordinary time to be working in this field, as we are now able to use genetic information and diagnoses to identify and initiate personalized therapies.”

Sinead Horgan, CGC

Lysosomal Storage Disorder Fellow, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

Sinead received her Master of Science degree in Genetic Counseling from the Northwestern University Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling. Sinead joined Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago in 2019 to participate in the Lysosomal Storage Disorder Fellowship to gain training and experience in diagnosing, managing, and counseling patients and families with lysosomal storage disorders.

“Genetic counseling is an exciting and ever-changing field, which provides us with the opportunity to create a personal and family-oriented experience for our patients. I am grateful to work alongside and make connections with these families every step of the way and to provide my patients with the resources and support to accomplish their life goals.” 

Alexander Ing, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor II, Center for Genomics, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Alexander Ing is a genetic counselor in the Center for Genomics within the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Lurie Children’s. His role is centered around in-house genetic testing analysis and reporting. In addition, he also serves as a clinical genetic counselor within the Division of Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine as part of the Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD) specialty clinic. He is a graduate of the Boston University Genetic Counseling Program and was previously a dual pediatric and laboratory counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also involved with the Northwestern Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling and is passionate about variant interpretation and data collaboration initiatives to improve our scientific understanding of genetic testing results.

“I believe that genetics and precision medicine has great promise to help our patients and families. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help share this knowledge and information with them”.

Susheela Jayaraman, MS

Genetic Counselor I, Division of Genetics, Birth Defects and Metabolism, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Susheela received her Master of Science degree in Genetic Counseling from the Northwestern University Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling. Susheela is currently a candidate for a Master of Arts in Medical Humanities and Bioethics from Northwestern University. Susheela joined Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago in 2018 to participate in the Lysosomal Storage Disorder Fellowship to gain training and experience in diagnosing, managing, and counseling patients and families with lysosomal storage disorders.

“I am passionate about forming lasting relationships with patients and their families through newborn screening and ongoing management of their condition.  I am grateful to have the opportunity to work closely with families as they learn and navigate the world with a genetic condition."

Elizabeth Leeth, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor III, Ann Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Assistant Director, Northwestern University Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

Ms. Leeth received her Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from Indiana University. Ms Leeth practiced prenatal genetics, teaching, and team management for over 20 years. In 2014, she had the opportunity to be involved in the development of the Lab Utilization Program at Lurie Children's. She also facilitated incorporating genetic counseling services into the multidisciplinary Sex Development Clinic at Lurie Children's. She enjoys both the educational and clinical aspects of her roles.

“It is exciting and rewarding to be able to be work at a state of the art, academic institution.  I consider myself lucky to be a small part of such a great team of healthcare providers who are dedicate to caring for and educating patients, their families, and trainees.”

Weilong Li, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor I, Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Weilong received his Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from Northwestern University in 2018 and was certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling that same year. He is the clinic coordinator for the 22q Deletion Syndrome clinic. In addition, he provides genetic counseling to patients in the general genetics and Muscular Dystrophy Association clinics at Lurie Children’s Hospital. He is also actively involved in the Northwestern University Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling as a course instructor and clinical supervisor.

“Genetics is such a rapidly advancing field, where we are constantly learning and implementing new knowledge. I feel lucky to be able to bring new discoveries and cutting-edge science directly to children and their families every single day.”

Erin McGinnis, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor II, Neurology, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Erin is one of two genetic counselors in the Neurology Department at Lurie Children’s Hospital, transitioning to this role in June 2019. Previous experience at Lurie Children’s includes lab utilization management and neuromuscular genetic counseling. She received her Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from Northwestern University and has been a board certified, licensed genetic counselor since 2016. She identifies and consents patients for various Lurie Children’s and Northwestern epilepsy genetics research projects and mentors genetic counseling students. Additionally, Erin is a member of the Illinois Society of Genetic Professionals (ISGP) where she serves as the chair of the Community Outreach Committee.

“I am passionate about working with families affected by a variety of neurogenetic conditions, helping them find answers and supporting them along the diagnostic journey. I also enjoy the opportunity to work alongside the neurologists and epileptologists at Lurie Children’s and helping them continue to integrate genetics into mainstream care for our patients.”

Shelly Weiss McQuaid, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor III, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Instructor of Pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Shelly Weiss McQuaid is a genetic counselor for the Division of Hematology, Oncology and Stem-Cell Transplantation at Lurie Children’s. She founded the Cancer Predisposition Program in 2016 with goals of providing comprehensive genetic counseling services for pediatric oncology patients and their families who are at risk of hereditary cancer syndromes. Shelly also enjoys serving on the hospital’s laboratory utilization management team, which provides support and guidance to all Lurie Children's health care providers regarding genetic testing options. Shelly was inspired to pursue a career in genetic counseling by her fantastic and unique cousin, who was diagnosed with a genetic condition when they were children. 

“My favorite part about being a genetic counselor is the opportunity to be a leader and innovator in healthcare. We have the ability to create and implement changes that result in greater access to genetic information for our patients, helping them to feel more empowered about their health, medical care and futures.”

Angelique E. Mercier, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor II, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Angelique Mercier enjoys providing genetic counseling for a wide variety of indications, with an interest and focus on pediatric oncologyconnective tissue disorderscystic fibrosis newborn screening, and general genetics. She received her MS in Genetic Counseling from Northwestern University in 2014, and her BS in Biology and Psychology with minors in Chemistry and Social Work from Valparaiso University in 2012. Prior to joining the Lurie Children's Genetics team, her previous clinical experience included adult oncology, carrier screening program coordination, and educational outreach.

“For me, the best part about being a genetic counselor is the opportunity to work together with the amazing families and other healthcare providers to truly meet the unique needs of each and every patient.”

Andrea Paras, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor Level III, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Clinical Instructor in Pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Ms. Paras received her Master of Science in Medical Genetics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Since 1999, she has been a genetic counselor in the Division of Genetics, Birth Defects and Metabolism at Lurie Children’s. Ms. Paras has experience in managing patients with mucopolysaccharidoses, PKU and other inborn errors of metabolism as well as evaluating patients for a wide variety of other indications. Prior to becoming a genetic counselor, Ms. Paras worked in social service agencies for adults with intellectual disabilities. She has continued to have a special interest in treating and supporting patients with intellectual disabilities and advocating for patients affected with rare genetic conditions. Ms. Paras enjoys teaching children about their own genetic conditions and supporting their transition to self-care.

“Over the past 20 years, there have been great advances in our ability to diagnose and treat genetic conditions. It is very fulfilling to make these new tests and therapies available to patients. I enjoy the connections I make with patients and their families, and strive to provide care which is tailored to the unique needs of each patient and each family.”

Victoria Sanders, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor Level III Ann Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
Clinical Instructor in Pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University

Ms. Sanders graduated from Arcadia University in 2006 with her Master's degree in Genetic Counseling. Since that time she has been employed as a pediatric genetic counselor in the Division of Genetics, Birth Defects and Metabolism at Lurie Children's, formally Children's Memorial. She specializes in skeletal dysplasias. She also sees both general and metabolic patients in her practice. Ms. Sanders has additionally been involved in coordinating multiple clinical trials during her tenure at Lurie Children's for lysosomal storage disorders and achondroplasia. She is also involved in the Northwestern Genetic Counseling graduate program in various capacities. 

"It has been a privilege to work with so many amazing families over the years."

Heather Willems, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor I, The Chicago Institute for Fetal Health, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Faculty Member, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Northwestern University 

Heather Willems is a genetic counselor in The Chicago Institute for Fetal Health. She is a member of a multidisciplinary team that helps families understand ultrasound findings and possible underlying genetic conditions that may have other health complications. Heather received her Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from the University of Colorado – Anschutz Medical Campus. She is certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling and licensed in the state of Illinois.

“I’ve always had a passion for genetics. I particularly love the genetic counseling profession because I get to learn something new every day. I am challenged to stay up-to-date on the ever-changing field of genetics and brainstorm ways to convey this information to my patients and colleagues. As a genetic counselor, I get to be both a student and an educator. It’s fascinating!”