Get to Know a Genetic Counselor: Sarah Stueber, MS, LCGC

Where did you attend undergrad and grad school?

I attended Wittenberg University and I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in biology and a minor focus in marine biology. My favorite internship in undergrad was my junior year when I went to Duke University for a semester. I took classes and spent my entire summer doing research at the marine lab. I worked in a genetics lab there and it was my first bench work experience in sequencing. I was funded by a naval grant to help with sequencing of barnacles in an attempt to find the clotting factor. That was one of my favorite research projects to date, and it combined the ocean and genetics. I completed the genetic counseling master’s program at the University of Cincinnati.

 

Where did you work prior to Insight and what was your specialty?

Prior to Insight, I worked at Mount Carmel Maternal Fetal Medicine for three years and I specialized in prenatal and preconception genetic counseling. I also covered the NICU on occasion to help with referrals, family history assessments, medical history assessments, pregnancy history assessment, and providing education and resources when a diagnosis was made. One of the major projects I completed while I worked there was beginning a program for families who receive an unexpected diagnosis of Down syndrome after delivery. I made sure they had a meeting before being discharged with the offer for support, resources and follow-up appointments scheduled.

 

Why did you choose your specialty?

There is something special about working with families in the prenatal/preconception setting. There is a wide range of difficulties and uncertainties as well as many opportunities for happy moments for couples and families. I really enjoy being able to work with couples, providing them with information, and helping them to navigate their options both preconception and during pregnancy for genetic care.

 

When did you first learn about genetic counseling? Why did you decide to become a genetic counselor?

One of my best friends from grade school was diagnosed with Colon cancer when we were freshmen in college. That was a very difficult time, especially for her family who was completely caught off guard. My friend, who now knows she has Lynch syndrome, had a bedside consult from a genetic counselor shortly after she was diagnosed with cancer. I remember how amazing that experience was for her and her family. I later had the opportunity to meet with her genetic counselor and shadow her, which is how I learned about genetic counseling. I loved the wide scope of genetic counseling, the diversity of cases the genetic counselor was able to see, and the ways in which she was able to participate in providing care for individuals and their families. I know the impact genetic counseling had on my friend and her family and how much the time spent with their genetic counselor helped in their journey through diagnosis and management. My friend's diagnosis helped her family better prepare for their own healthcare and allowed them to have testing on themselves as well. 

 

What do you feel is your responsibility to your patients as a Genetic Counselor?

My responsibility to my patients as a GC is to make sure I am providing them with information and helping them to decide what is right for them. I feel the best thing I can do for my patients is to make sure they always feel comfortable enough to ask questions and get the information they want for themselves and their family. Every patient is different, so it is my responsibility to make sure I tailor each session to my patient, their family, and their beliefs and wants to ensure they are receiving the best care.

 

Why is genetic counseling an important part of the genetic testing process?

Genetic counseling is an integral part of the genetic testing process. I feel as though you can’t truly have useful genetic testing without genetic counseling. If the patient does not have detailed informed consent in which they get the opportunity to learn about their testing options and select which options are right for them, then any results obtained will not be beneficial in the long run. The goal of genetic testing is always to provide information and help guide healthcare, and genetic counseling is an important step in making that a possibility for patients.