The field of cancer genetic counseling is relatively new, since the genes that predispose a person to cancer were only identified in the early to mid 1990s. At Huntsman Cancer Institute, genetic counselors play a key role in the cancer risk assessment team, which includes oncologists, gastroenterologists, and dermatologists. Cancer risk consultation involves the following:
- Collecting and confirming information about personal and family history of cancer
- Identifying the risk of developing cancer
- Determining ways in which cancer risk can be modified
Genetic counselors also help individuals make decisions about genetic testing as well as create a personal cancer health program that fits with the individual's value system. Read more about genetic changes that can lead to cancer.
The University of Utah's Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling prepares students for accreditation and to practice in the field. The program is an interdisciplinary collaboration between Huntsman Cancer Institute and the Departments of Human Genetics, Pediatrics, and Obstetrics and Gynecology. It integrates coursework, clinical rotations, community placements, supplementary activities, and an independent research project. Accredited by the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC), the program makes students eligible for Active Candidate Status and prepares them to take the ABGC certification examination.
Participating Faculty and Staff
Wendy Kohlmann received a master's degree in genetic counseling from the University of Cincinnati in 1998. Before joining Huntsman Cancer Institute in 2006, she worked in the cancer genetics programs at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on family communication about genetic information, factors affecting screening adherence and management decisions, and psychosocial issues for children with hereditary cancer predisposition syndromes.
Angela Schwab obtained her master's degree in genetic counseling in 2003 from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Prior to her work at Huntsman Cancer Institute, she was a research coordinator for a spina bifida research project at Duke University. At Huntsman Cancer Institute, Schwab developed the Familial Polyposis Study research protocol and currently counsels individuals involved in the research. She also counsels individuals regarding genetic testing and familial forms of colon cancer in the Familial Colon Cancer Registry and the Family Cancer Assessment Clinic. She serves on the genetic counseling graduate program Research Oversight and Admissions committees and participates in the Cancer Genetics Course and the genetic counseling cancer rotations.
Thérèse Tuohy graduated with a PhD in molecular genetics from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, before training as a genetic counselor at the University of Cincinnati. Before joining Huntsman Cancer Institute in 2005, she worked on generation and analysis of mouse models of colon cancer and multiple sclerosis, and on the molecular genetics of Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies. Her current research interests include genetic and environmental modifiers of inherited colon cancer and RNA-based technology as a means of finding unusual mutations in clinically ascertained patients who have no known mutations detected by DNA methodology. Tuohy counsels patients regarding familial cancer risk as part of the Family Cancer Assessment Clinic team and she serves as the genetic counselor for the Familial Colon Cancer Clinic research studies.