The story behind the creation of the Brandeis University Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling is best described as the intersection of the two worlds: scientist, and mother of a child with a genetic condition.
The genetic counseling program was founded in 1992 by Judith Tsipis, a faculty member within the biology department. Judith's son, Andreas, was diagnosed with a rare and progressive neurological disorder called Canavan disease. Through her interest in science and genetics and her own personal journey as a parent of a child with a genetic disorder, Judith was inspired to start a genetic counseling program — the first of its kind in New England.
Nearly three decades later, the genetic counseling program at Brandeis has educated and trained hundreds of genetic counselors. While the program has endured for close to 30 years, it remains steadfast in its commitment to understanding the perspectives of individuals and families who are touched by genetic disease. This focus remains a core part of the curriculum today.
The program continues to honor the life of Andreas Tsipis. Shortly before Andreas' death at the age of 22, Judith and her husband, Kosta, established a scholarship fund in their son's name to help support genetic counseling students. During a recent wintersession event attended by both students and faculty, Judith was the inaugural speaker and shared the story of Andreas’ life with Canavan disease.
In recognition of the legacies of both Judith and Andreas as part of the fabric of our program, we began the event by renaming wintersession to Learning From Personal Narratives: The Annual Series Honoring a Child of Smiles and Judith’s Crazy Dream. It is our hope that despite retiring, Judith will continue to share her story so that students and faculty will appreciate how this program began and why its focus is so valuable.