With genetics playing a growing role in healthcare, it’s important that physicians and genetic counselors partner to provide patients the most effective care. In a new episode of NSGC’s Genetic Counselors and You consumer podcast, NSGC President Amy Sturm and Dr. David Rolston discuss the value of that partnership.
Both work at the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., Sturm as director of Cardiovascular Genomic Counseling and Rolston as chair of the Department of Medical Specialties and director of the Division of General Internal Medicine. With the launch of Geisinger’s MyCode Community Health Initiative (a biobank of people who’ve had genomic sequencing), Sturm and Rolston forged a strong partnership that’s helped Rolston and his team integrate genomics into patient care.
As you’ll hear in the podcast, Rolston relies on genetic counselors’ vital knowledge of genetics to help the healthcare team take care of their patients, “providing the information in language that the patient will understand and perhaps equally important, we will understand,” said Rolston.
Helping them understand their genetic information “can be powerful to these patients so they truly can use it to improve their healthcare, and their children’s, brothers and sisters and other relatives,” said Sturm. “Genetic counselors have their entire training within their master’s degree programs to focus on all of that deep science in genetics, but also the psychosocial counseling skills” to supplement doctors and their team members as they work with patients.
Rolston shares two main instances in which genetic counselors are most helpful: explaining to patients their abnormal genetic test results and guiding them if they have concerns about inheriting a condition such as Alzheimer’s disease or breast cancer.
The pair also covers the increasing popularity of consumer genetic testing, noting that after receiving their results, patients often ask physicians to help them understand what they mean. That’s where genetic counselors can provide guidance, especially with their unique psychosocial counseling skills to help patients understand their options or next steps.
Medical knowledge of the role genetics plays in various conditions is expanding, including heart and cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurological conditions such as dementia. Genetic counselors increasingly are called on to partner with specialists in those areas.
“We’re going to see so much more integration with genetic counselors in other specialty areas of care too because genetics … does have some component in almost every organ system and the risk that patients have,” said Sturm.
Looking to the future, Rolston believes genetic screening will become routine, with physicians regularly ordering genetic tests just as they order cholesterol bloodwork or an electrocardiogram (EKG). That means genetic counselors will increasingly be called upon to help patients – and their physicians – understand what the results truly mean.
To hear the full podcast and past episodes, visit AboutGeneticCounselors.com.