SAN DIEGO, CA – OCTOBER 13, 2014 – What is a genetic counselor and what does a genetic counselor do at Pathway Genomics? From the outside you would think that answering this question would be a simple task for someone who has spent more than 20 years providing clinical genetic counseling in a wide variety of circumstances such as prenatal, neurogenetics, hematology, and cancer genetics. Genetic counselors are a fiercely protective and private lot when it comes to our clients and our profession. Who we are and what we do are intimately intertwined.
According to the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC), “Genetic counselors are healthcare professionals with unique specialized graduate degrees and experience in the areas of both medical genetics and counseling. Genetic counselors work as members of a healthcare team, providing risk assessment, education and support to individuals and families at risk for, or diagnosed with, a variety of inherited conditions. Genetic counselors also interpret genetic testing, provide supportive counseling, and serve as patient advocates.”
In the beginning, the primary role of a genetic counselor was anchored in academia, which is where the majority of medical geneticists spent their time. Although we continue to provide a supportive role in the medical genetics evaluation, and certainly adhere to the NSGC’s definition of genetic counseling as “the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological, and familial implications of genetic contribution to disease,” how we manage our calling is ever-changing.
Genetic counselors have moved from providing services exclusively in the hallowed halls of iconic institutions with metabolic, pediatric and general genetics clinics to centers for prenatal diagnosis, oncology services, cardiology, hematology, laboratory, research–the list has no boundaries. The genetic counselor is an integral component in providing patients, their families, and members of the healthcare team with current information on the complexities of genetic disease which can then be utilized to create a personalized plan of care.
At Pathway Genomics, genetic counselors are here to help providers, their staff, and patients navigate the complexities of genetic testing. We are advocates for those who seek to become empowered by information regarding their genes to promote and improve their health. We are on the forefront of personalized medicine, allowing targeted preventive care and therapeutic treatment based on an individual’s genetic makeup.
Genetic counselors at Pathway Genomics are available for support and guidance before any services are ordered and post-test at no additional charge. This service applies to providers, their staff, and patients. Genetic counselors at Pathway Genomics are here to ensure there are no barriers to testing, and that providers and patients have a full understanding of their options – so that an appropriate care plan can be put into action.
As a genetic counselor, one of the things I love about genetics and medicine is the ever changing continual growth of the field and the opportunity to provide services to families. Watching patients rise beyond circumstances, accept whatever difficult situation nature has dealt them, and appropriately channel their energy and hope will never get old. Personalized medicine helps individuals become empowered to take an active role in their health based on their genetic makeup. That is quite an accomplishment. Count me in!
Connie Schultz, M.S., CGC, is a field genetic counselor for Pathway Genomics.