Two UBC faculty of medicine graduate students have been honoured with research awards from the National Society of Genetic Counselors.
Ann Marie Peturson and Kiara Lowes are both students in the Genetic Counselling program in the faculty’s department of medical genetics.
Peturson received the 2021-2022 Jane Engelberg Memorial Fellowship (JEMF) Student Research Award, which is provided by the Engelberg Foundation to the National Society of Genetic Counselors.
Peturson received the JEMF award for her project, titled “Investigating the relationship between therapeutic alliance and patient outcomes of genetic counseling.” Her project examines the quality of the relationship between the patient and genetic counsellor during a genetic counselling session, and how this relationship relates to patient outcomes following genetic counselling.
“The goal of the Jane Engelberg Memorial Fellowship is to fund research that leads to innovation in the field of genetic counselling,” Peturson said. “Receiving this award validates that work still needs to be done to understand what makes genetic counselling effective as a health care intervention and reinforces the value that this type of research has for the field of genetic counselling overall.”
Lowes received the 2021 Precision Medicine Special Interest Group Research Grant Award. The award supports research projects related to personalized or precision medicine and promoting genetic counselors’ involvement in this area.
Lowes project focuses on polygenic risk scores (PRS), which can provide individuals with their genetic risk for complex diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, lung cancer and depression. PRS for complex disorders are not currently used in clinical practice, though they are available to the public through third-party interpretation tools that analyze direct-to-consumer genomic information. Lowes’ project involves conducting interviews with users of one of these websites, called Impute.me. The interviews will focus on motivations for seeking PRS information and reactions to receiving it. The goals of the project are to better understand how the public receives PRS, and to improve communication of PRS information in the future.
“I receive so much support from my project supervisors, Dr. Jehannine Austin and Kennedy Borle,” Lowes said. “Receiving this award highlights the additional support I have from the genetic counselling community and reinforces that my research is important.”