Jessica Salamone wins Outstanding Teaching Award for Non-Tenure-Track Faculty

Winning this year’s Outstanding Teaching Award for Non-Tenure Track Faculty was “a full-circle-moment” for Jessica Salamone ’99 (biotechnology).

Salamone recalls as an undergraduate watching one of her own RIT mentors, Eileen Marron, receive an Eisenhart Teaching Award. “I remember thinking it was so amazing, and it’s a big deal moment for me. It gives you that little buzz to move forward.”

Salamone, an adjunct professor in the College of Health Sciences and Technology, brings to RIT her real-world expertise as director of Genetic Counseling and Cancer Risk Assessment at Elizabeth Wende Breast Care in Rochester.

She is the first RIT graduate to become a genetic counselor and has dedicated her career to counseling thousands of patients and their families about their hereditary cancer risk and introducing RIT undergraduates to her medical genetics.

“I needed direction when I got to RIT, and that’s how I think about it; people directed me, now it’s my turn to direct others,” she said.

Dozens of her former students have become genetic counselors. Many others work in various positions in the Rochester health care community and are now Salamone’s peers.

“Ironically, at Elizabeth Wende, there are seven sonographers and all of them—the entire department—— were my students and now they are my colleagues and my friends and coworkers,” she said.

Since 2002, Salamone has taught Medical Genetics, a required class for some majors, and the upper-class elective Case-Based Genetics Counseling. Students in her courses learn the unique skill set required in genetic counseling—a field that blends science when advising patients about medical choices, teaching them about genetics and heredity and counseling and offering empathy to patients making difficult decisions.

Some of Salamone’s actual patients share their stories with her upper-level Case-Based Genetics Counseling class. This semester that included a middle-aged woman, a young mother and an RIT student who talked on Zoom calls about receiving counseling due to their own or their child’s risk based upon family history and genetics.

“I think those classes are successful because the students see the humanity and the real life,” Salamone said. “It opens their eyes. And it’s healing for the person telling their story. I am blessed to be in a position where I am able to help people, and I love to teach.”

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