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JAMES WITNESS TESTIFIES IN OHIO HOUSE FOR GENETICS LICENSURE BILL

Dawn Allain, MS, CGC, a genetic counselor in the Division of Human Genetics at Ohio State, testified on behalf of the OSUCCC – James before the Ohio House Health and Aging Committee on Nov. 16 in support of HB 292, which would license genetic counselors in Ohio.

Passage of this legislation is a priority for Ohio State’s cancer program.

Allain shared recent developments in genetic testing that have created a need to understand risk assessment, multi-gene and genomic diagnostics, genetic-based treatment and effective strategies in communicating genetic test results to clients and consumers.

She also stated that certified genetic counselors are uniquely qualified to deliver this service and cited national studies showing that a “lack of preparedness among healthcare providers in Ohio has led to erroneous or delayed diagnoses, incorrect disease management and unnecessary costs for patients and payers” when qualified genetic counselors are not utilized.

“Licensure of genetic counselors is the only avenue by which Ohio residents and their healthcare providers can easily identify practitioners who are qualified to provide competent genetic counseling and ensure the appropriate application of genomic medicine,” Allain said.

Kelly Kelleher, MD, a pediatrician who directs the Center of Innovation in Pediatric Practice and serves as vice president for health services research at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, also testified as a consumer of genetic counseling services. He said that when his sister was referred to The James for genetic testing after being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 43, a genetic counselor examined her family history and tested her for a rare cancer genetic condition called Li Fraumeni syndrome, which she was shown to have. Kelleher and his siblings were then tested, and he learned that he has the syndrome as well.

Kelleher emphasized the importance of licensing genetic counselors. “The value of identifying a qualified genetic counselor for our family was that she had the expertise and was more aware of the nuances of cancer susceptibility genes to be able to determine the correct genetic syndrome to test for, whereas other healthcare providers would most likely have ordered the gene associated with hereditary breast cancer just because of my sister’s young age at the time of her diagnosis,” he said. “Second, the genetic counselor my family has worked with has been critical to ensuring that we receive the appropriate medical management based on our at-risk status.”

The licensure bill awaits a third hearing in the Health and Aging Committee but is expected to move through the Ohio House soon.