June 2020

Stephanie Gandomi ‘96

Stephanie Gandomi, known as Stephanie Herbert while at Awty, is an experienced MS, LCGC, Licensed Genetic Counselor. Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Stephanie grew up in Houston. Her interest in medicine and genetics started when she was a middle school student; that’s where her love for this field began. She was fascinated by how human characteristics could be passed down from generation to generation.

Stephanie attended high school at Awty, graduating in 1996. The academic rigor of Awty’s IB program prepared her long-term for college-based studies and gave her the confidence to pursue higher-level graduate degrees.  Stephanie holds a BA in Communications, a Master of Science in Genetic Counseling, and a Master of Business Administration.

Today, Stephanie is the Director of Genetics at UnitedHealthcare, where she is helping build a nationally based genetics program that serves about 50+ million people across the country. Over the last 10 years, she has been actively involved with developing curriculum at and lecturing to genetic counseling graduate training programs including Stanford University, Boise State University, the University of California at Irvine, University of Utah, Augustana University, Boston University, and the University of California Stanislaus.

Stephanie currently resides in El Dorado Hills, California with her husband and three children. We are so proud to feature her in our June 2020 Alumni Spotlight!

What college did you attend and why did you choose that field?

I obtained my BA in Communications from Flager College in 2000, my Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from Brandeis University in 2006, and my MBA (Master of Business Administration) from Boise State University in 2019.

Describe your current job and the path you took to get there.

I am currently the Director of Genetics at United Healthcare. My undergraduate degree is in Communications, and my professional master's degrees are in Genetic Counseling and Business Administration. The combination of academics and professional experience helped me build a unique career that is both patient-centered, highly scientific, and technical. 

Starting in 2006, I was a clinical genetic counselor for many years at Stanford Hospital in California and then began working in the biotech industry at genetics laboratories developing diagnostic testing for patients in the Bay Area. In 2016, I was hired as the first genetic counselor ever in the Blue Cross Blue Shield system of insurance companies nationwide to help build a unique genetics division for four million members. In this role, I was responsible for developing state-based genetics medical policies, finding opportunities to improve patient care, and increasing the quality of and access to genetics services.

In 2019, I was hired at UnitedHealthcare to build a nationally based genetics program that serves about 50+ million people across the country. In this program, I am responsible for supporting the development of genetics-based utilization management programs, developing medical policies, supporting case review for genetic testing claims, identifying opportunities for accessibility and affordability initiatives, and collaborating with payment integrity and contracting. At both Blue Shield of California and at UnitedHealthcare, I actively support insurance fraud, waste, and abuse initiatives in genetics and support law enforcement and investigations teams as a genetics expert. 


What person, course, or experience most influenced you while at Awty? How?

I came to Awty in high school and loved my time at the school. Not only did the academic rigor of the IB program prepare me long-term for college-based studies, but it gave me the confidence to pursue higher-level graduate degrees. I remember my teachers at Awty were very rigorous and held me accountable for achieving academic success. They went above and beyond to ensure that I had a strong foundation. Unfortunately, some have passed since 1996, but they are all still mentors in my heart. 

Share your favorite memory of Awty:

My favorite memory is receiving an Athlete of the Year award in 1995. I remember the beautiful banquet and Mr. Sam Waugh giving the presentation speech. Although I was recovering from serious knee surgery at the time, it was still an amazing experience. I also remember being so excited to finally take Mrs. Katherine Awty to lunch (which was a senior tradition), but unfortunately, she passed away early in our senior year. It was sad to have missed out on this beloved tradition, but I still feel lucky to have seen her and known her presence at the school even for a short while. 

How did your education at Awty prepare you for what you did in college and are doing today?

Throughout Middle and High School, I always loved English and Science. During my IB studies at Awty, I selected Biology and English/Language Arts as higher-level subjects for the exam, which later became the degrees I selected in college and graduate school. 

What advice would you give current Awty students interested in pursuing a career in your field?

As an Awty student, you can achieve anything! Your academic foundation is solid. Being successful takes persistence and grit, even when people tell you that “it can’t be done”. Remember, Awty started in Big Blue and there were many people who doubted Mrs. Awty’s mission. Look around and see where the school is now. All of it would not exist today had she not persisted with her vision.  

What is something people may not know about you? 

I now have a family including three children. My daughter is my oldest, and she is graduating high school this year, Class of 2020. She is headed to California State Polytechnic Institute in San Luis Obispo to become a high school mathematics teacher! My youngest are identical twin boys who are going into 3rd grade. I love spending time with my family and traveling. Everyone loves cooking and eating, so we have fun trying new recipes together!

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I feel very blessed to have graduated from Awty! My only regret is not having lived in Houston since leaving for college, otherwise, I would have loved for my children to attend Awty, as well.