I am the I in IWK: Aidan Thomas (she/her), genetic counsellor

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Genetic counsellors are part of a multi-disciplinary team that helps patients and families when there may be a genetic component to the health issue they’re facing. The Maritime Medical Genetics Service at the IWK serves the Maritime provinces and sees all types of genetic patients.

Aidan Thomas works mainly in Cancer Genetics reviewing personal and family histories of cancer to determine if genetic testing would be beneficial for the patient or their family. She also works with the emophilia team.

“We have the privilege of meeting people from many walks of life for a large variety of reasons; which I love,” says Thomas. “I joke that being a genetic counsellor allows me to share information about genetics, that I find really interesting, with people who may actually want to know, instead of just bugging the people around me about it.”

Wait lists for genetic counselling can be a challenge. Thomas and the team look for innovative ways to see people more quickly and conveniently – including virtually or in group sessions.

If a patient doesn’t require a physical exam, a virtual appointment is always offered. Zoom gives patients more flexibility with appointment scheduling and also greatly reduces time, effort and related travel costs.

“Parents or siblings can join without having to be in the same place. Sometimes having that support, or family historian is quite beneficial to all!”

Group sessions can also be highly effective. If patients are being offered the exact same test, the content of the session will be almost identical.

“Zoom allows us to check in with patients individually (both before and after) and provide a group information section. This allows us to see double the number of patients in the same time frame.”

But patients who may be uncomfortable in a group session or who would prefer not to use Zoom are still welcome to be seen in other ways. The ultimate goal is always quality of care in a timely way.

“Whenever a patient seems to really understand what I am trying to review and appears to have made a decision that aligns with their needs, I feel like I have done well. It is important I deliver the information I have to provide in a way that makes sense to the patient.”