SMHS Faculty Spotlight
SMHS Faculty Spotlight
CFE (Center for Faculty Excellence)

GW School of Medicine & Health Sciences Center for Faculty Excellence 

January 2023 Faculty Spotlight
Excellence in teaching & learning, scholarly endeavors, and leadership are all around us at SMHS. The Center for Faculty Excellence would like to Spotlight our faculty’s contributions to SMHS, George Washington University, and beyond. Each month we will spotlight faculty from across SMHS, MFA, and Children's. We want to thank our highlighted faculty members for sharing with us their advice and perspectives!
- SMHS Center for Faculty Excellence
Dr. Lisa Schwartz, Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Laboratory Sciences
Join the CFE as we highlight Dr. Lisa Schwartz, who discusses her professional journey from clinical work in Genetic Counseling to teaching in higher education and involvement in education research. Lisa shares her upcoming initiatives within GW and SMHS and provides insight into her Jane Engelberg Memorial Fellowship from the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC), for a grant titled An Exploration of Genetic Counselors’ Professional Identity.”


Dr. Lisa Schwartz, EdD, MS, CGC, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Laboratory Sciences and an education professional with more than 25 years of experience in higher education and healthcare. She has led multiple initiatives, including program, curriculum, student, and faculty development, grant writing, and quantitative and qualitative research. Since joining the SMHS faculty, she has served in a number of leadership roles, such as founding Director of the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-medicine Certificate Program. She has served as the Associate Director of the Research Education, Training and Career Development (RETCD) component of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Children’s National (CTSI-CN), an NIH-funded, $20 million collaborative initiative between The George Washington University and Children’s National Hospital.

Previously, Dr. Schwartz was a Senior Education Specialist with the College of Professional Studies (CPS) at The George Washington University where she supported the marketing and recruitment of graduate programs within CPS and the Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

Prior to coming to GW, Dr. Schwartz was the director of the Master’s in Genetic Counseling (MGC) Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine where she led the planning, organization, administration, evaluation, and delivery of the educational and clinical activities of the training program. She was also the co-principal investigator on two HRSA-funded grants, Interdisciplinary Healthcare Training and Delivery and Genetic Interdisciplinary Faculty Training Program (GIFT) of Duke University. Dr. Schwartz is certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC).

Interview Q/A

How long have you been at GWSMHS? What drew you to your current position?
Lisa: I joined the faculty at GW SMHS as an assistant research professor in October 2010.
Originally, I was on a pre-med track but while in college I came across the field of Genetic Counseling, which was a relatively new field at the time. I decided to get my master’s in Genetic Counseling at the University of Pittsburgh and worked as a clinician for a number of years. Then at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, I had an opportunity to become the program director for a newly established master's degree program there. While working in that higher education space, I realized that my passion was really in curriculum development, education, and working with students. Looking back, I think what drew me to genetic counseling was the educational component of it. 

Later on, my family moved to the DC area. I knew that my options in genetic counseling were rather limited and I didn't want to go back to clinical work, but I also didn't have a degree in education. So I decided to obtain my doctorate in Higher Education Administration at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development (GSEHD) at GW. From there, I took on a role within the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Children’s National Hospital. Then eventually I became faculty within the Biomedical Laboratory Science department. So I made a pretty significant career shift, which I feel is now coming back full circle with some new developments in genetic counseling and new initiatives I am leading within the field.
What are your major responsibilities here at GWSMHS?

Lisa: As a faculty member I have involvement in all three main pillars of teaching, research, and service. With respect to teaching, I teach within two departments at SMHS. Within the Biomedical Laboratory Sciences department, which is my primary department, I teach genetics, both to undergraduate and graduate students. I also teach leadership and ethics and direct a curriculum course within the Doctor of Health Sciences (DHSc) program in the Health, Human Function, and Rehabilitation Sciences department. 

With respect to research, I've been involved with a number of different projects over the years since being at GW, both in my work within the CTSA and my previous role as the Director of a Post-Bacc/Pre-med program. I've provided pre-health professional advising to students in the BLS department. Most recently, I've been involved with research within genetic counseling and just completed a funded grant study from the American Board of Genetic Counseling that investigated whether any additional training was needed among genetic counselors working within a laboratory setting. 

From that study, I developed a second project that will explore professional identity formation among genetic counselors. Due to the expansion of the field, it has grown beyond working primarily in clinical settings to also working in laboratory or research settings. Recently, I received the Jane Engelberg Memorial Fellowship from the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC), for a grant titled An Exploration of Genetic Counselors’ Professional Identity” which is a two-year grant that just started this January.
What are the next steps for the fellowship that you will be doing for that project?

Lisa: The first step is a scoping review, looking at how professional identity is regarded within the field of genetic counseling. My initial literature review revealed that it is pretty limited, which was justification for the study to be done. I have been using the resources at Himmelfarb Library to help me with how to conduct a scoping review, which has been very helpful. The next step after that will be to conduct qualitative interviews of up to 50 genetic counselors in a variety of settings to identify any trends among genetic counselors who have shifted from a predominantly clinical role to a non-clinical role, exploring if there is any unifying professional identity among genetic counselors?
What are some of your service responsibilities and initiatives you are involved in at GW SMHS?

Lisa: As far as service, that component has really been one of the most rewarding elements of working at GW for me. I have learned a lot from serving on various committees, within my department, SMHS, and at the university level. It is also a great opportunity for me to give back to GW. Having been a student, staff, and faculty at GW, I feel like I have a lot to be thankful for. At the university level, I have done work within the Education Policy and Technology Subcommittee for the Faculty Senate and the University Hearing Board. At the school level, I was on the Executive Committee for the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and most recently, I was chosen to be a new Ombudsman for SMHS. All in all, I have been sort of combining my genetic counseling background with my higher education experience. 

Lisa: In addition to this service, I have had the pleasure of serving within the Women in Medicine and Health Sciences Society or Clara Bliss Hinds Society (CBH). I was a member of the inaugural Executive Committee for the society and now serve as the Chair. I get to work with an incredible group of women, faculty, and staff here at GW who are leading a number of great efforts to help in the promotion of women faculty, in terms of their professional development, career development, and helping them navigate the complexity of balancing life and career. As a society, we regularly do webinars based on a variety of topics, as well as hold an Annual Event each year. We held our first annual event last June where we invited three leaders from SMHS and Children's National Hospital to discuss their experiences. The event was really well received. Last spring we also launched the Mentorship Awards that we will be repeating every year. The Mentorship Awards serve to reward faculty of any gender for their mentorship specifically of women in medicine and health sciences. It is also very unique in the way it's set up because the reward has three different levels. These levels have allowed us to acknowledge that you can be a mentor at multiple points of one’s career progression. Overall it is a great way to recognize faculty who are working to support female students, residents, and faculty here at GW.
What are some of the events that people can be aware of for the CBH?

Lisa: In addition to our second CBH’s Annual Event, which will be held in June 2023, our society was also approached by a fellow SMHS faculty member, Dr. Ahdeah Pajoohesh-Ganji, who has a personal connection with Iran. Given the recent women-led protests in the country, she wanted to see how we at GW could increase awareness of the shocking events happening in Iran, as well as create a call to action. What we originally planned as a webinar has really expanded to a larger-scale event that is bringing in very influential guest speakers. It has led to a partnership with the GW Global Women Institute as well as the GW Iranian Student Association (IRSA) to have a campus-wide event, on Wednesday, March 22, 2023 corresponding with the Persian New Year.
What about the future of the Department of Biomedical Laboratory Sciences excites you?

Lisa: I think my department as well as Department Chair, Dr. Marcia Firmani, is incredibly receptive to new ideas regarding new programming. For instance, I have been able to bring forth the idea of redesigning existing courses and possibly developing new courses to develop academic programs around genetic counseling. These could include perhaps Post-Bacc certificates or even minors that would be available to GW students and for students, online that can access these programs across the country. It has been very rewarding working with the students within our department, both in terms of mentoring as well as in teaching. Many are from backgrounds underrepresented in healthcare. They are often first-generation students or have current or previous military service. Having a range of online courses allows them the ability to continue their education while they're working or where they're living if it is outside of the DC area. This has really allowed for an increase in diversity among our student population in our department. Overall, our department is very innovative when it comes to starting new programs and trying to keep pace with new fields that have a lot of potential growth and career opportunity and new deliveries of these programs such as online learning.
What is your favorite thing about working at GW and specifically within your current role?

Lisa: One of my favorite things about working at GW SMHS and within my role is the ability and power of networking. I really believe that networking is something I have been very good at doing and GW has awarded me so many opportunities to do so. Whether that's through teaching across different departments, or the service and research I have been a part of that goes beyond the doors of my department and SMHS, networking with people has been a huge benefit of being at GW. GW is large enough that there are just so many resources and so many people that are doing similar work, that it's easy to tap into these networks.
What impact do you hope to have on your trainees, colleagues, and peers through these roles?
Lisa: Reflecting back on my own sort of circuitous career path as I've described, starting as a clinician and then moving to education and also doing some research throughout, there's always been a sort of common thread of health professional development. I hope that through my mentorship in my teaching and empowerment of colleagues, I've helped them think of their own career paths in unique ways. I know that some of the students I work with may come in with a certain idea of their career path, but sometimes that changes as they discover that a particular path may not necessarily be right for them. Speaking from my own personal experience with this, I think that I am able to help students navigate through some of those decisions as to where their talents and interests may be best aligned. Reinforcing in them that you can make a big shift and sometimes it can come back to full circle. 
The same goes for my fellow faculty. I try to encourage my colleagues to be really thoughtful about the things they are doing and their accomplishments, not only for the external recognition such as their annual reports but also the internal recognition for themselves that allows them to celebrate their contributions to the GW and SMHS community.
How does this spotlight/recognition make you feel? 
Lisa: I truly feel honored to be recognized with this spotlight. I have read these spotlights in the Center for Faculty Excellence newsletter and have been so impressed with my fellow faculty and amazed as to all the great things we are able to accomplish, given all of our multiple demands, both professionally and personally! It's really an honor to be among this group of faculty who have also been recognized and an honor to have the opportunity to share some of my career journey with others, and hopefully people will be able to take something away from my path that has had so much variety in it, while still simultaneously moving progressively forward. I also really welcome anyone who reads this who wishes to connect with me, or who I can help in expanding their network, to reach out to me!
What is one thing that keeps you motivated during the day? Could be a song, podcast, quote, etc.

Lisa: Like everyone I've had my own personal challenges in life. However, through it all, I have kept to one specific mantra, “I am doing the best I can.” It sounds simple but it has really helped sustain me in a lot of ways. It is a reminder that I am doing good in the world and that what I am doing is enough. Of course, we all aspire to do more and more and sometimes may compare our successes to others, but at the same time, we shouldn't lose sight of all that we've already accomplished and how far we have come.
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