Cardiac genetic counselor helps patients with heart health

By: Sanford Health News .

genetic counselor talking to patients
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

For many families, the search for answers to their genetic heart problems can take years. This leaves them not only frustrated but without the knowledge needed to provide a proper care plan.

Kristen DeBerg, M.S., L.C.G.C., a cardiovascular genetic counselor at Sanford Imagenetics, reviews the patient’s family history and identifies if there may be a hereditary cardiac condition at play.

“Inherited heart disease is more common than we once thought,” DeBerg said. “This means that the condition could have been present for generations but never diagnosed properly. My job as a genetic counselor is a little like solving a puzzle. You are trying to put all of these pieces together to find the right answer.”

Because genetic issues could go back generations, she often meets with multiple family members. This allows her to paint a fuller picture of the inherited condition.

“If we are able to identify a genetic explanation for a certain condition, we can look for other individuals in the family who may be at risk for that condition,” DeBerg said. “Then we know who needs to be screened when, whether a medication could benefit them, if they need to see a cardiologist more or do certain tests more often.”

Even though the cardiac genetic counseling program is in its infancy, DeBerg sees it playing a major role in health care sooner rather than later.

“Look how far genetic counseling has come in oncology,” she said. “We are just at the beginning, but it’s very possible that we may reach a point similar to the cancer world where we can identify certain medications specific to gene changes that could really benefit a family.”