Geneticists are just one of the many specialists involved in genomic healthcare. Dr Amy Nisselle designs and delivers genomics education for a wide range of students and professionals. In this interview, she explains what the 'genomic workforce' actually looks like.

Let’s start with you. Tell us about your job in genomics.

The Genomics Workforce team in 2023. L-R: Jaitika Duggal, Doug Liddicoat, Dani Ariti, Dr Fran Maher, Dr Amy Nisselle.

At Melbourne Genomics, I lead a team that designs, delivers and evaluates education programs.

My job and my career sit at the intersection of two disciplines: education and genomics. I apply theories of learning, behaviour and diffusion of innovation to enable health professionals to learn about genomics and bring it into their practice.

What kind of healthcare jobs use genomics?

First up, you have genetic specialists. Those include clinical geneticists, doctors with specialist training in diagnosing and treating genetic conditions; and genetic counsellors, people who support patients and families to understand and make decisions about genetic testing and the results of a test. Demand for both these roles is high and will keep growing.

Then you have other clinicians who will use genomic tests. Genomics is valuable in so many areas of health – from specialities like paediatrics, oncology, cardiology and nephrology, to infectious disease management, to general practice and allied health. So a growing number of clinicians are learning when and how to use genomic testing with their patients.

That might be trying to find an answer for a patient or decide the best treatment for a patient. Or maybe they’re trying to identify a strain of superbug that’s in a hospital and get on top of it before people get sick.

Then we have scientists who conduct genomic tests. A team of scientists receive the blood or saliva sample, extract and sequence the DNA, assemble and clean the sequence data, and then examine it to try to find answers.

So you can see genomic healthcare is about lots of people with different skillsets working together. That’s one of the reasons genomics is so appealing to many health professionals.

Here's an A-Z list of jobs involved in genomics.

What other roles are in the genomic workforce?

Genomics requires a number of clinical and non-clinical roles working together to improve patient care. Photo: iStock.

Lots! Like any field of healthcare, there are plenty of roles that support a clinician’s interaction with a patient and any tests that might be ordered.

First, how does the clinician decide what type of test they should order to help their patient? And when should that be a genomic test? For that, you need educators – people like me and my team, who design courses or education programs in genetics and genomics.

Then let’s think about how the test works. You need experts in the technology, like data scientists and software developers, who build databases, pipelines and analytics tools, so that medical scientists can find answers in a patient’s genomic data.

You also need planners and administrators – people who make it possible for genomics to be used in the first place. They consider aspects like quality, safety and ethics; look at how to properly cost and budget for genomics; and ensure there are good processes for ordering tests, receiving results and getting them back to patients.

You need community engagement and communications specialists – people who make sure patients and communities inform and shape the health services they receive; and people who can take scientific information and make it understandable, interesting and engaging.

What’s great about working in genomics?

Oh, wow, I adore my job. Where to start??

I’m so lucky to have landed in a place that marries my scientific interest – genetics and genomics – with the skills I developed as an educator and project manager.

I get a thrill in seeing a doctor engage with a concept we’ve presented to them, and go away excited about a new way to help their patients. Or hearing that a junior scientist feels ready to start applying for variant curator roles after completing our courses.

In some jobs it can be hard to see the real-world impact of what you’re doing on a daily basis. In my job, I regularly get to see the end point – our education programs are improving patient and public health by providing increased access to life-saving genomic testing.

It might be a baby who’s sick in the ICU, who gets the right genomic test at the right time to determine what’s wrong and what treatment is best. Or it might be an elderly patient in a hospital who doesn’t get a superbug infection, because genomics helped the infection control team know what bugs are prevalent and how to keep patients safe.

The impacts are so far-reaching; I literally smile coming into work every day.

Dr Amy NisselleConnect
Interviewer: Zayne D'CrusConnect


We could talk genomics all day, but we’ll send you only what’s useful and interesting.

Melbourne Genomics acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, on whose lands we work, and all First Nations peoples across Victoria. We pay respect to Elders past and present. We also acknowledge the First Nations health professionals, researchers and leaders who are shaping the future of genomic medicine.

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