As a genetic counselor in training, I experienced a variety of clinical genetics specialties such as prenatal and preconception care, oncology, pediatrics, and neurogenetics. I was intrigued by the emerging area of cardiovascular genetics. Inherited arrhythmias and cardiomyopathies secured my interest quickly, as I witnessed the power of genetic information to aid in patient care and to prevent the tragedy of sudden death in families. I was privileged to begin my career working as the first genetic counselor in Indiana to practice entirely in cardiology. I was further privileged to work with my Division Chief at Indiana University, Dr. Peng-Sheng Chen, who has since become the Editor-In-Chief of HeartRhythm, and who encouraged my interest in the Heart Rhythm Society.
My genetic counseling training equipped me to navigate many genetic counseling and testing issues, regardless of a specific diagnosis. However, the Annual Scientific Sessions has been one of the most valuable ongoing learning opportunities for me regarding the dynamic, highly-nuanced field of inherited arrhythmias. It is well attended by electrophysiologists who are world leaders in the field and provide the most updated understanding of these conditions. This is critical for me to provide quality patient care by appropriately evaluating family histories, interpreting genetic test results, and providing the best possible genetic risk assessment for families based on current information.
As a genetic counselor, I also help patients communicate information with their relatives who may be at-risk for a heart rhythm disorder and connect them with providers in their geographical area. This idea of extending our care beyond the patient, to the entire family, is also well supported by the HRS membership who I can access at the annual meeting and through the online directory.
Additionally, my HRS membership has provided me opportunities to collaborate with investigators in the field and further understanding of the genetic contribution to cardiac arrhythmias through research.
The number of genetic counselors who are members of HRS and attend the Scientific Sessions has increased greatly over the past few years. There are now more genetic counselors contributing to the HeartRhythm and HeartRhythm Case Reports Journals, and sharing data in posters and invited presentations at the Scientific Sessions. I know the role of genetic counselors in the field of electrophysiology will continue to grow and evolve. I am confident this will happen effectively, such that we best meet the needs of patients and providers around the world, in part because genetic counselors have become embedded with the electrophysiology care team through HRS, united in the cause to end death and suffering due to heart rhythm disorders.
Katherine G. Spoonamore, MS, CGC, LGC
Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine
Indiana University School of Medicine
Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology Indianapolis, IN