Meet the leadership team for the Master of Genetic Counselor Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Laura Birkeland

Laura E. Birkeland, MS, CGC
Program Director, MGCS
Assistant Professor (CHS)

BS, biology, 2000, Gustavus Adolphus College
MS, medical genetics, 2007, UW-Madison

Laura Birkeland, MS, CGC is a certified genetic counselor working as the assistant program director for the Master of Genetic Counselor Studies program at UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. Before becoming a genetic counselor she worked in a virology research lab where she grew to appreciate the process of discovery and yet identified her desire to work in a clinical setting.

In addition to her work with the MGCS program, she coordinates and teaches two courses for genetic counseling students in metabolic genetics, as well as embryology and prenatal genetics. She has co-mentored four genetic counseling students with their research projects and works directly with genetic counseling students in the clinical setting as a supervisor. Laura works in various clinical roles; she provides prenatal genetic counseling services at UPH-Meriter, and prior to her current work in the Bleeding Disorders Clinic with UW Health, she provided genetic counseling for individuals and families with inherited diseases in the Biochemical and Medical Genetics Clinic.

A favorite part of the job is working with students; she is continually amazed by the students and honored to be a part of their journey toward becoming a genetic counselor.

Ashley Kuhl

Ashley Kuhl, MS, CGC
Assistant Program Director, MGCS
Assistant Professor (CHS)

BS, genetics, 2011, UW-Madison
MS, medical genetics, 2013, UW-Madison

Ashley Kuhl, MS, CGC, is a certified genetic counselor working as the associate director of fieldwork with the Master of Genetic Counselor Studies program. She provides guidance and oversight to students as they rotate through the various clinical and related fieldwork experiences as part of their training. She provides mentorship and teaching support to not only the UW MGCS Program, but also the UW MD Program and the Wisconsin MCH LEND Program.

Clinically, Ashley provides support, care coordination and genetic counseling for individuals and families with, or suspected of having, inherited diseases in the Biochemical and Medical Genetics Clinics. She also works closely with the Plain Community in Wisconsin through the Amish Project, which provides genetic testing and improves newborn screening awareness to Plain (Amish and Mennonite) families.

April Hall

April Hall, PhD, MS, CGC
Associate Director of Research, MGCS

BS, human biology, psychology, Spanish, 2005, UW-Green Bay
PhD, molecular and human genetics, 2011, Baylor College of Medicine
MS, genetic counseling, 2013, Indiana University

April Hall’s love for genetics started as an undergrad while at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay as a Human Biology, Psychology and Spanish major. After graduation in 2005, April pursued her PhD in Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas with the goal of becoming lab director. Though her research into the genetic causes of neuropsychiatric conditions and developing genetic tests to better diagnose those disorders was intriguing, she desired a more human connection to the work she was doing and decided to become a genetic counselor.

April received her master’s degree in genetic counseling from Indiana University in 2013 and worked as a pediatric genetic counselor at a private hospital in Indianapolis for 1.5 years. In 2015, she was able to return to her home state of Wisconsin when she accepted a job as a pediatric genetic counselor at the Waisman Center. In 2017, April was able to fully use both of her degrees when she became the associate director of research for the UW Master of Genetic Counselor Studies program. In 2018, the Center for Human Genetics and Precision Medicine was created at UW-Madison and April was one of their first hires as a research genetic counselor, which allowed her to not only pursue her interests in both genetics research and genetic counseling, but also to continue to serve as the research coordinator to the genetic counseling students.

Currently April’s main role within the Center for Human Genomics and Precision Medicine is to develop an undiagnosed disease clinic and research study.

Elizabeth Petty

Elizabeth M. Petty, MD
Senior Associate Dean, Academic Affairs
Professor, Department of Pediatrics
Medical Director, MGCS

Elizabeth Petty, MD, senior associate dean for academic affairs and professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, received her bachelor's degree in biology and art history from Clarke College and her MD from the University of Wisconsin.

Following a pediatrics residency at Wisconsin, she completed postdoctoral fellowships at the Yale School of Medicine in medical genetics and clinical molecular genetics, as well as postdoctoral research training in the department of genetics. She was on University of Michigan Medical School faculty from 1994 to 2011, where she was a professor of internal medicine and human genetics and served as their dean of students, dean of medical student education, and medical director of the genetic counseling training program.

Dr. Petty is board certified in clinical genetics and in molecular genetics by the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics. She has been recognized for her achievements as a physician-scientist, clinician and educator with numerous local and national awards and recognitions. Her research has led to identifying and characterizing novel genes important in cancer progression and elucidating clinical and molecular features of genetic conditions. She enjoys mentoring learners in research and nurturing their development as health professionals in clinic and classroom settings.