Two Massey genetic counselors appointed to state advisory board
Governor Terry McAuliffe recently announced the appointment of Heather A. Creswick, M.S., C.G.C., and John M. Quillin, Ph.D., C.G.C., both genetic counselors at VCU Massey Cancer Center’s Familial Cancer Clinic, to Virginia’s Advisory Board on Genetic Counseling (AB).
Genetic counselors are health care professionals with specialized training in helping people evaluate and understand their risk for an inherited medical condition. At Massey’s Familial Cancer Clinic, genetic counselors provide genetic testing and consultation to help individuals determine their family history and cancer risk, a prevention plan and treatment, if necessary.
Genetic issues are complicated, and the field of medical genetics is rapidly changing. There is potential for harm when incorrect or incomplete genetic information is provided to patients and applied to medical decision-making, making the need for professional regulations and licensure vital.
Virginia genetic counselors began networking in the 1990s to discuss issues of importance to the profession. These meetings began small, but progressed to laying the groundwork for Virginia Association of Genetic Counselors (VaAGC), an organization open to all genetic counselors practicing or living in the state of Virginia that aims to increase public awareness of genetic counseling, provide professional representation and offer greater networking opportunities for members. The VaAGC also believes that licensing genetic counselors will attract more high-quality individuals to the profession and help meet Virginia’s growing demand for genetic counseling services.
We caught up with Creswick and Quillin to learn more about their appointments and how they were introduced to the profession.
Q: How did your appointment come about?
Heather Creswick: I was nominated to the AB because of my involvement with legislation in the VaAGC and my work in both the clinical and academic arenas of genetic counseling. In February 2008, I helped establish the VaAGC. My duties included shaping the structure of the VaAGC, writing bylaws and forming the mission and vision. In 2010, the VaAGC licensure committee drafted and submitted a sunrise proposal to the Virginia Department of Health Professions to investigate risks and economic impact. The proposal requested that the Department assess the need for licensure of genetic counselors in the state of Virginia, citing that licensure would be the only level of regulation that would provide adequate protection for the public.
John Quillin: The AB is mandated through legislation enacted in 2014 that establishes licensing of genetic counselors. Virginia is now one of a growing number of states requiring such licensure.
The goal of licensure is to ensure patients being evaluated for genetic disorders, including hereditary cancer, are safeguarded from harm, such as inappropriate medical management recommendations or misinterpretation of genetic testing. The purposes of the AB are to develop regulations that will guide the implementation of this legislation and to assist with legal processes of licensed genetic counselors.
I was initially recommended to the Governor’s office by a VCU women’s health clinician in 2014. This is both Heather’s and my second appointment to the AB.
Q: What does the AB hope to accomplish in the next year and years to come?
Creswick: The main function of the AB during the first few years is to assist the Virginia Board of Medicine in formulating the rules and regulations for genetic counseling licensure, such as setting practice requirements; establishing appropriate application and renewal fees; and creating requirements for licensure renewal and continuing education. Once those are passed by the General Assembly, then the function of the AB will be to oversee meetings and disciplinary and credentialing conferences.
Quillin: The short-term priority of the AB is to finalize the legislative regulations for licensure. Our proposed regulations have undergone public comment and most recently underwent economic analysis. I am hopeful the regulations will be in effect within the next year, at which point the state can begin issuing licenses.
Q: What do you personally hope to accomplish?
Creswick: The legislative process has been slow, but I am excited the state will finally be able to issue licenses in the next year or two.
Quillin: Generally, the intent of licensing is to protect the public from harm, so I hope my contributions in these meetings mean patients are more likely to access quality care. I also hope our presence at the state level increases positive visibility of Massey so that more patients access the excellent care we provide. Finally, I hope to learn about patients’ and providers’ varying concerns related to genetic assessment. Through the AB, I get to hear insights from expert clinicians, government officials and the public. Ultimately, I hope learning from these various perspectives will help me provide better care for my own patients.
Q: How long have you been at Massey and what brought you here?
Creswick: I was able to join Massey as a cancer genetic counselor in 2005 when my husband's job moved us to Richmond. Before moving, I was in the beginning stages of starting a pediatric cancer program in my prior position as a pediatric genetic counselor. I am now a faculty member in the VCU Department of Human and Molecular Genetics and work closely with the M.S. in Genetic Counseling training program. I was also recently elected to the board of directors for the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC).
Quillin: I came to VCU in 1997 for training in the M.S. in Genetic Counseling program. As a student, I had the privilege of volunteering with Massey, working in the Linen-Powell Patient Resource Library and delivering refreshments to patients undergoing treatment. That led to a part-time administrative job with the library. In 1999, a Massey pilot project was started to assess the impact of a brief genetic counselor-administered breast cancer risk assessment in our mammography clinic. After graduating from the master’s program, I was hired as the genetic counselor for this project, and we also started our clinical genetic counseling service, the Familial Cancer Clinic. Thus, my full-time work with Massey began.
Q: Where can patients learn more?
Creswick: To make an appointment with Massey’s Familial Cancer Clinic, please call (804) 828-5116. Genetic counseling services are available at Massey’s Dalton Oncology Clinic downtown and at Stony Point. One of our genetic counselors also provides services in Fredericksburg.
More information can also be found on Massey’s website.