A Q&A with Kiley Johnson, Chief Clinical Officer
According to the NSGC, the genetic counseling profession has grown by more than 100 percent in the last ten years and is expected to grow another 100 percent over the next ten years.
At Genome Medical we are so fortunate to have nearly 90 genetic counselors who work across all areas of the company. Our clinical team has an average of 10 years of experience in genetic counseling. Our team is able to service patients all across the US and Canada, is available seven days of the week and as such has been able to reach more than 120,000 patients in all disciplines of reproductive, cancer, pediatric and rare disease specialties since inception.
To understand the field of genetic counseling and the role of genetic counselors at Genome Medical, we sat down with Kiley Johnson, a genetic counselor herself, as well as our Chief Clinical Officer, for a Q&A.
What makes a successful genetic counselor?
Most individuals in this field have a dual passion for science and helping people. It starts with an education rich in genetics, biology, psychology and statistics. Formal training includes a Master’s degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). However, what makes a genetic counselor so unique and successful is their ability to relate to their patients, to understand their needs, to be with them and help them make decisions often during very trying times in their lives. Genetic counselors are emotionally intelligent and empathic. They value science and believe in equity, health care access and empowering patients to take control of their health.
What is the role of genetic counselors at Genome Medical?
At Genome Medical we are very fortunate to have genetic counselors involved in every area of our business and clinical practice. Our GCs are helping shape the future of healthcare in genomics by the work they do across the organization daily. Many of our genetic counselors are involved in direct patient care, seeing patients through video or telephone visits all around the US and Canada daily, to ensure patients have their needs met regardless of where they live or what their resources may be. We have genetic counselors involved in medical and scientific affairs and research, where their focus is to ensure we are moving the field forward by providing advice and education to our clients, helping to build great content for our product tools, as well as ensuring that we can provide solid data to our fellow GC community on the important work that genetic counselors do to further the field and extend our patient reach. In addition, we have some genetic counselors working in business development, and others who work as Clinical Science Liaisons with our sales team, clients and clinical operations leaders to ensure streamlined workflows and superb client communications. Lastly we are fortunate enough to have GCs on our executive leadership team.
What makes genetic counseling at Genome Medical unique?
Patients can schedule genetic counseling at Genome Medical and meet with our amazing team members in less than a week. They also have access to our technologies and tools that help support their journey with us. They can opt for automated text messages for easy scheduling and appointment reminders. They also have access to risk modules, education modules, can complete family/health history questionnaires prior to their visit, and seamlessly access their documentation after their appointment. Genome Medical is continuing to invest in resources to make the patient care journey easy and efficient while ensuring that patients have their personal needs met.
What would you say are the most significant qualities of a GC?
We look for the following qualities in our genetic counselors:
- Ability to translate complex medical information into something that is understandable for anyone regardless of their background or education.
- Ability to determine where a patient is at in their journey and meet them there to truly understand and individualize their care.
- Ability to actively listen and self reflect so that our patients and clients feel heard and understood.
What are the differences between the genetic counseling a patient might receive in-person versus through a telehealth visit, like at Genome Medical?
The primary difference is the location of the patient and GC at the time of the visit. Instead of the patient and GC being in a clinical office together, they are in a video or phone consult together. The beauty of genetic counseling is that a face-to-face encounter is not needed. Data in our profession suggests that telehealth visits are equal to that of an in-person visit. Our GC team is able to meet the needs of our patients by meeting them virtually via a telehealth visit in their home, at work, or wherever the patient is most comfortable, without need for travel. This solves the access problem for so many patients who don’t live near genetic counseling services or live in areas where the wait time to see a genetic counselor can be 6 to 12 months.
Genetic counselors at Genome Medical are involved in both patient-facing and non-patient facing roles. What is it about genetic counselors that allow them to thrive in so many different types of roles?
Genetic counselors have very unique skill sets. We are fortunate that our backgrounds are based in science as well as psychology and people relationships. There isn’t much a genetic counselor cannot do with their training. Whether in business interactions or a virtual patient visit, GCs ability to connect with and truly understand people’s needs and how they can help, is a fundamental skill and something that comes naturally to us. Because of this dual training, GCs are able to think critically about any issue, whether in patient care, business or other areas and use facts and data to make sound decisions while taking into account how those decisions impact others.
What should individuals do if they are interested in a career in genetic counseling?
There are many avenues for individuals to learn about genetic counseling careers:
- Learn more about GCs on the NSGC website: https://www.nsgc.org/About/Becoming-a-Genetic-Counselor
- Speak to a GC to learn more about their path and insights on the profession first hand
- Gain experiences by shadowing a GC if possible
- Spend time working as a genetic counseling assistant (GCA). GCA’s have an opportunity to work alongside GCs on a daily basis to gain more experience and understanding of the profession
- Attend one of our quarterly webinars and hear directly from Genome Medical GC’s. These webinars are developed as part of our goal to build out a safe, diverse and inclusive industry that better represents the greater population