Guest: Tricia Paige
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Tricia Paige is a Senior Director with the JScreen program at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. At Emory, Tricia has worked as the Director of Genetic Counseling Services, Program Manager for Newborn Screening, and the Assistant Director of the Genomics and Public Health Program. In her current position, Tricia focuses on improving the delivery of genetic services from both an individual and public health perspective, especially in the realm of preconception carrier screening.
Segment overview: Tricia Z. Paige, MS, CGC, LGC, instructor at Emory University School of Medicine, talks about the benefit of DNA sequencing.
Health Professional Radio – DNA Sequencing
Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio, thank you so much for listening today. In studio today with us is Tricia Paige, Senior Director with the JScreen program at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Now after receiving her Bachelors of Science in Genetics from the University of Georgia she received her Master Degree in genetic counseling from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. And she is here today to speak with us about the benefits of DNA sequencing. Welcome to Health Professional Radio Tricia Paige.
Tricia Paige: Hi, thanks so much for having me.
N: Thank you. As senior director with the JScreen program there at Emory University, talk a little bit about what it is that you’re involved in as a genetic counselor? And then let’s talk a bit about well the benefits or maybe some of the draw backs involved with DNA sequencing, okay?
T: Yeah, Neal that sounds great. So I guess let’s start with just kind of what I’m currently involved with and then can we run to the other questions that you have.
T: I’m currently involved with a program called “JScreen” and what we are doing is we’re trying to bring the kind of latest in genetic testing technology to people and looking at what easy to access and affordable as possible. We are using sequencing, which I will talk a little bit more about why that’s important in a second that we’re using sequencing specifically to see them to identify as many people who are genetic carriers for conditions as possible. And it’s because it’s really practical information, the testing that we do is done before pregnancy so for couple knows that they’re at risk then they can take steps to have a healthy family. And so sequencing is an excellent tool that helps us to accomplish that goal.
N: Is this covered by someone’s healthcare or is this something that is reserved for say not necessarily the ultra rich or at least the comfortable well to do?
T: Right. So I will say that increasingly, insurance companies are getting on board with benefits of covering genetic testing. Because we’re really starting to show clinical utilities that it actually does make a difference in terms someone’s care and they’re really how well they do in the future. So most insurance companies will have some kind of specific policies around genetic screening. I’m just giving example there is one, so people who are interested in cancer screen for example, there is one insurance company that requires people to actually go and meet with their genetic counselor before they’ll cover the testing. So it’s really, but if you do and you meet certain criteria then they’ll cover it at a very high level if not entirely. For some people it’s still inaccessible and the program JScreen that I work with we actually are a not-for-profit program. We have very generous donors who allow us to subsidize the cost.
T: Testing and down to about $99, which is a great deal for the people who come to us and again it’s just all about increasing access for us.
N: If someone were interested in becoming a genetic counselor, is this a field that is readily offered at the main stream learning institutions? Or is it something that you have to find a specific college to get access to such courses?
T: There are specific training programs for this. The circle didn’t existed at all before 1969 when Sarah Lawrence College in New York saw the first training program. When I applied for school in 1993 there are only 9 programs in the country. So that’s why I went to Houston and from Atlanta myself, but I went to Houston because that’s where I got in. And now there are around 32 programs around the US, there’s 3 in Canada.
N: Not many.
T: That are all accredited, but that’s it. Yeah, it’s a relatively small number programs that’s fairly competitive to get in to them for that reason.
N: Is JScreen specifically involved in any grants or some type of assistance for students who want to go into genetic counseling and then maybe transition specifically into the JScreen program there at Emory with you?
T: Yes, we are really pushing it. And here in the University where we’re based we have one of those training programs so we are really fortunate. And that we’ve had several students who work with us to do, these training programs are master’s level. And so they’ve done their thesis with us and they do clinical rotations through us. And well I haven’t heard anyone out of our training program yet, I certainly would if we have an opening and needed to do that.
T: So it’s really a privilege and one of the pleasures that we have in terms of having students around.
N: Are there counselors who counsel in just DNA sequencing and what type of patient would need to know the details of such a procedure or testing? Isn’t that something maybe reserved for the researcher, the test lab and then the attending physician?
T: So I’ll tell you sequencing is becoming more and more mainstream. And most genetic counselors are gonna be comfortable talking about sequencing and understanding the pros and cons of it. Well there are some specialists, the technology Neal has advanced to now where we can do sequencing at someone’s entire genome or their entire … it’s called XM which is basically the probable genome that gets used. And there are counselors now who specialize in interpreting the entirety of someone’s genetic make-up. And that’s really the kinds of people that are doing that now, are typically people that have been on diagnostic odyssey. What we would call an odyssey survey so they really been looking for diagnosis for a health problem. Often these are children that have maybe multiple problems, multiple issues that they’ve just been able to put it together to know why this is happening. And so in that sense you go on and you go get everything. And so there are … and certainly genetic counselors don’t do that by themselves, we are always part of a team. There are always a laboratory, directors, there’s physician, we’re always part of the team. But genetic counselors do a lot of the … they just give the information and then explaining it to patients and hopefully in a way that they can take that and understand and use that information themselves.
N: Thanks. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. We’ve been in studio talking with Tricia Paige, Senior director with the JScreen program at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. And she’s been here today on Health Professional Radio with us talking about the benefits of DNA sequencing. And also some of the ways that JScreen is allowing students to learn genetic counseling and step on into the career whether or not they’re at Emory University or some similar program here in the United States. It’s been a pleasure talking with you today Tricia.
T: Great, thanks you so much.
N: Thank you. Transcript and audio of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.com and you can also subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.