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Our Richard R. Ferrante Friend of the Genetic Counseling Program Award, Robert S. Young Outstanding Genetic Counselor Award and our Distinguished Alumni Award help us recognize individuals who have made a significant impact on the field of genetic counseling. 

Friends of the USC Genetic Counseling Program Award

Richard Ferrante, Ph.D.

Richard R. Ferrante, PhD

Richard R. Ferrante, Ph.D., former Director of Disability Resources for the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, was the first recipient of the Friends of Genetic Counseling Program Award. In 1983, he urged the genetics faculty to develop the program and has served as primary faculty in the classroom and on thesis committees ever since. His stalwart support led us to name the award in his honor. 


Award Honorees

2017 Honoree

Courtney Truluck

Courtney Truluck and family were trailblazers, the very first family to undergo cancer genetic testing in Columbia over twenty years ago. By sharing her story with the Palmetto Health Foundation in 2016, Courtney raised awareness for the impact of cancer genetic counseling throughout our community.

2016 Honoree

Roz McConnaughy

Roz McConnaughy was recognized for investing her medical librarian expertise in the program as she guides faculty and students in integrating the latest evidence base in thesis research and clinical practice.

2015 Honoree

Lydia Matesic, Ph.D.

USC Associate Professor of Biology, Dr. Matesic, was honored in 2015. Dr. Matesic challenges our students to understand the edge of genomic research technologies and where research is leading our clinical practice.

2014 Honoree

C. Thomas Caskey, M.D.

C. Thomas Caskey was the 2014 honoree, having created the impetus to launch the USC Genetic Counseling Fall Symposium with his 2013 avante-garde keynote address, Counseling the Genome. Dr. Caskey continues to invest his expertise in the program.

2013 Honoree 

Faculty of the Greenwood Genetic Center

The faculty of the Greenwood Genetic Center have provided lecture, laboratory and clinical expertise to our students’ development since the inception of the program in 1985. The award was presented by Dr. Ferrante himself at the May 2013 Greenwood Genetics Center case conference, at which time we recognized the significant contributions of the center and especially of Doctors Skinner, Stevenson and Everman for their consistent support of genetic counselor education.

2012 Honoree

Professors Rich Goodwin (Cell Biology) and Erica Blanck (Anatomy)

Professors Goodwin and Blanck were honored in 2012 for their commitment to genetic counseling education. These professors, along with others from our basic science faculty, provide foundational education in human development in a four credit, two semester course for first year students. They go above and beyond for us every year.

2011 Honoree

Ken Corning, M.S. '93 and Angie Lichty, M.S. '99

Special Friends of the Program, Ken Corning and Angie Lichty, were recognized in 2011 for their teaching expertise for which has become integral to the education of genetic counselors. Ken and Angie develop students’ pediatric genetic counseling skills through classroom instruction, interactive workshops and clinical rotations.

2010 Honoree

Ruth K. Abramson, Ph.D.

The 2010 honoree Ruth K. Abramson, Ph.D., has taught psychiatric genetics to our students since the program's inception. Dr. Abramson developed the S.C. Huntington Disease Testing and Counseling Program more than 30 years ago, serving the families of South Carolina in this special area of medicine.

2009 Honoree

Madeleine Will

Director of Public Policy for the National Down Syndrome Society was honored in 2009, for her engagement in conversations and support of master of science thesis research as we have worked together to build greater understanding between the genetics and Down syndrome advocacy communities.

2008 Honoree

Wendell H. McKenzie, Ph.D.

We recognized Wendell H. McKenzie, Ph.D., Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Genetics from North Carolina State University upon his retirement in 2008. Dr. McKenzie has lit the genetics enthusiasm of many undergraduate students over his career.

2007 Honoree

Richard R. Ferrante, Ph.D.

Richard R. Ferrante, Ph.D., former Director of Disability Resources for the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. In 1983, Richard urged the genetics faculty to develop the program and has served as primary faculty in the classroom and on thesis committees ever since. 


Robert S. Young Outstanding Genetic Counselor Award 

Robert Young Award

Robert S. Young, MD

Each spring, the Genetic Counseling Program faculty select one member of the graduating class for the Outstanding Genetic Counselor Award, named for our founding director Dr. Robert S. Young. This graduate has performed in an exemplary manner in every facet of their professional education: in academic coursework, clinical rotations, interactions with faculty, in service learning and as a representative of the Genetic Counseling Program. We always find it difficult to select just one.


Award Recipients
  • 1992 Debra Harris Zvejnieks
  • 1993 Jill Fischer
  • 1994 Lara Berg
  • 1995 Sonja Eubanks
  • 1996 Jennifer Sullivan Sareela
  • 1997 Melissa Bennett
  • 1998 Lori Terry
  • 1999 Amy Giordano Shealy
  • 2000 Mary Ann Whalen Campion
  • 2001 Elizabeth Cook Dempsey
  • 2002 Stephanie Nix
  • 2003 Lindsay Allen Metcalf
  • 2004 Anne Baughman Bandholz
  • 2005 Bridgette Aufmuth
  • 2006 Christina Barger
  • 2007 Holly Hardin Zimmerman
  • 2008 Peggy Walker
  • 2009 Sally Cunningham Harris
  • 2010 Ravin Winfrey
  • 2011 Madison Foster
  • 2012 Audra Bettinelli
  • 2012 Vruti Mehta
  • 2013 Ginger Edwardsen
  • 2014 Brittanie Morris
  • 2015 Devon Haynes
  • 2016 Natasha Rudy
  • 2016 Molly Snyder
  • 2017 Rachel Hickey

Distinguished Alumni Award

The Genetic Counseling Program has always recognized our success as a program comes from the accomplishments of our very active alumni. Since 2001, the School of Medicine has honored an outstanding alum each year, welcoming them to the School of Medicine Black Tie-White Coat Gala and the Dean’s Awards Dinner in the spring, and inviting the alum to visit with program faculty and students, often as a special guest lecturer. We are proud of our graduates!

Debbie Zvejnieks

2018 Award Recipient

Debera “Debbie” Harris Zvejnieks, M.S., C.G.C., class of 1992, is a native of Lancaster, S.C., and a board-certified genetic counselor. She worked at Palmetto Helath - USC Genetic Counseling and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology for six years. She practices prenatal genetic counseling.

Previously, Zvejnieks worked for Greenwood Genetic Center as a DDSN coordinator and held prenatal genetic counseling positions at Memorial Medical Center in Savannah, Ga., and at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, Co.

Debbie has been actively involved with the USC Genetic Counseling program Advisory Board for five years. She also currently works with genetic counseling students to promote awareness of the program and encourage community collaboration and volunteerism.

She serves or has served on numerous community Boards including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, Artists for Africa, the Columbia Museum of Art, the Columbia City Ballet, EdVenture Children’s Museum and the Junior League of Columbia. She also helps manage, along with her husband Peter, the Zvejnieks Foundation of South Carolina.

Past Award Recipients
  • 2001 Cam Brasington (1988)
  • 2002 Jill Fischer (1993)
  • 2004 Christine Miller (1989)
  • 2005 Vicki Vincent (1987)
  • 2006 Sonja Eubanks (1996)
  • 2007 Holly Peay (1997)
  • 2008 Courtney Rowell Tate (2000)
  • 2009 Melissa Bennett (1998)
  • 2010 Jennifer Sullivan (1996)
  • 2011 Mary Ann Campion (2000)
  • 2012 Kerry Crandall (1988)
  • 2013 Cam Brasington (1988)
  • 2014 Katie Berrier Sheets (2009)
  • 2015 Peggy Walker (2008)
  • 2016 Libby Malphrus (2001)
  • 2017 Emily Ellen Hardisty (2001)