In the Spotlight

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Alix D’Angelo, Instructor, Genetic Counselor
Department of Genetics

After receiving my B.S. in Genetics from the University of Georgia, my Master’s in Genetic Counseling from the University of Maryland, Baltimore and working in Houston, Texas for a few years, I finally made it back home to New Orleans to establish genetic counseling clinics and be a part of the precision medicine program at LSU Health. A native New Orleanian, I have always wanted to practice here but there is a paucity of genetics services in the city. I aim to change that and improve patient access to genetic counseling across a variety of indications, especially in populations that have been historically under-served.

As a Genetic Counselor, I have the opportunity to work with patients and their families to help them understand and adapt to the medical, psychological and familial implications of genetic disorders. Genetic counselors receive unique, highly specialized training in order to perform pedigree analysis and risk assessment, explain complex scientific and medical information in terms that are understandable to patients and coordinate appropriate genetic testing, all while providing support and taking psychosocial concerns into account such as anxiety and guilt. Each genetic counseling session and genetic test is tailored to the patient’s individual needs.

While I previously worked in pediatric genetics, I currently have clinics at University Medical Center and the LSU Healthcare Network focused on adult hereditary cancer and cardiovascular genetics. In the oncology specialty, patients are referred to me when they have been diagnosed with certain cancers at a young age (such as breast and colorectal cancers), have been diagnosed with rare cancers (such as ovarian cancer) and/or have multiple affected relatives. In the cardiovascular specialty, patients are referred to me when they have been diagnosed with specific forms of cardiovascular disease at a young age (such as arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy or hypercholesterolemia) and/or have multiple affected relatives, and/or have a family history of sudden cardiac arrest and sudden early death. In both oncology and cardiovascular, some individuals are unaffected but referred solely based on their suspicious family histories. During the genetic counseling session, we discuss the role of genetics in cancer or cardiovascular disease, genetic testing, implications of the results, management recommendations (including screening, prophylactic surgery and/or treatment options) and the risks for other family members.

In addition to my clinical work, teaching is a passion of mine. I have served as a supervisor to genetic counseling students and developed new genetics curricula. I teach graduate, medical, dental, nursing and other students, and I provide continuing education to a variety of healthcare providers. I am also involved in multiple research projects, the focus of which includes gene discovery across a variety of congenital anomalies and adult-onset disorders.

 

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