On April 1st, 2016, the long-standing regional genetics program joined Prevention and Screening Services at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC). Formerly located at the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, and known as the Northwestern Ontario Regional Genetics Program, the program moved to TBRHSC because the program aligns well within an acute care setting.
“We look forward to the opportunities for research and further growth that this new program offers,” said Cathy Paroschy Harris, Director of Prevention and Screening Services at TBRHSC. “We know that this will enhance patient and family centred care and that’s what is most important.”
“Many of the clients who access the Genetics Program also access other services at TBRHSC. The physical location change aligns services and is more convenient,” explains Paroschy Harris. “Our Prevention and Screening Services span from chronic disease prevention and education, to cancer screening services and even navigating patients from suspicion of cancer to definitive diagnosis. The addition of the Genetics Program allows us to expand our services within this continuum of care.”
The Genetics Program has been a valuable service in our community since 1981. It offers assessment and diagnosis of genetic disorders, medical information about genetic diseases or conditions, discussion about risks of developing and passing on disorders, information about the management and prevention of inherited disorders, and services that arrange and interpret laboratory test results. Clients may be referred to the Genetics Program for many reasons, including preconception/prenatal screening, pediatric health concerns, family/personal history of a potentially genetic adult onset condition, or hereditary cancer.
“Individuals with concerns about their family history of a genetic condition, or who may have a genetic condition themselves, can be referred to the Genetics Program,” says Leanne Mercer, who is one of two genetic counsellors with the program. “Individuals who come for an appointment can learn about the condition and how it is inherited, their options for genetic testing, and any recommended screening and/or lifestyle changes. Referrals may be made to other disciplines in the hospital where clients can get help to manage their condition. There is a big advantage to working in closer proximity with other specialists because it means our multidisciplinary approach to care is enhanced.”
Genetics Program clients have access to a genetic counsellor and geneticist. A genetic counsellor is a health care professional with specialized graduate training in the areas of medical genetics and counseling. Geneticists are medical doctors who have special training in the area of inherited diseases. Genetic services are offered free of charge to those who have a valid OHIP and meet referral guidelines.
For more information about the Genetics Program at TBRHSC, visit www.tbrhsc.net/genetics.