Q: What is your research area and why does it interest you?
A:I focus on building evidence that shows the benefits of integrating psychiatric genetic counselling into mental health services. My job is to demonstrate that psychiatric genetic counselling brings value to patients, particularly for those populations where data showing such positive effects is lacking. Misconceptions about the relevance of genetic counselling persist, particularly in recognizing its value and usefulness outside of genetic testing and reproductive/family planning. My interest is fueled by a desire not only to grow awareness, support, and appreciation for psychiatric genetic counselling for individuals with psychiatric illness, but also the value it offers in complementing the practice of clinicians working in mental health.
Q: What has been your proudest achievement so far?
A:I am very proud of how I have shaped my current position as a genetic counsellor working also as a clinician investigator in psychiatry. I’m particularly proud of the relationships I have fostered with mental health clinicians in this role, the recognition I have received for my research contributions, and the opportunity to highlight the value and skill set genetic counsellors can bring to other fields of medicine.
Q: What's the best advice you've ever received?
A:There are two pieces of advice that I have received from my mentor, Dr. Jehannine Austin, that I try to be mindful of each day. First, do what you want to do and not what you think you should do. Second, if thoughts are lingering on your mind or resurface, reflect further to identify the deeper issue rather than ignoring or squashing them down.
Q: What do you like to do when you're not working?
A: I enjoy yoga and spending time with my husband and three-year-old daughter. Both help me immensely with promoting and maintaining my mental health and keeping me balanced because while I love my career, it can be draining. I also enjoy volunteering with the Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors (CAGC Task Force on Emerging Roles for Genetic Counsellors and CAGC Research Committee) and the National Society of Genetic Counselors Psychiatric Special Interest Group.
Q: If you won a free vacation to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: Spain. I ultimately want to visit all of the countries from where my family originated (Philippines, Macau, and Spain). I recently went to the Philippines for the first time for a family reunion and had a chance to visit historical landmarks of significance to my family. I would like to do the same in Spain. I enjoy being immersed in the culture and of course sampling the cuisine!
Q: Do you ever feel like you’re missing out by not working in a clinical position?
A: No. I always thought that my dream job would be half clinical and half research. But, although my position now is solely research, I still get to provide genetic counselling through the studies I am conducting. What I do may not be perceived as “clinical work,” but I get to enjoy the patient/participant interaction and also have dedicated time to conduct research and manage studies. I enjoy working in a unique position that I hadn’t even imagined was possible!