Introducing… a genetic counsellor

Introducing… a genetic counsellor

Lorrie Lynch is a genetic counsellor at Juravinski Cancer Centre (JCC). She has worked at Hamilton Health Sciences for nine years.

Favourite colour: pink/ book: The Alchemist by Paul Coelho/ vacation spot: Hawaii/ animal: cat/ food: pizza/ holiday: Easter

What made you enter your field of work? I’ve always been interested in genetics, and I knew I wanted to be some sort of health care professional. I heard about the field of genetic counselling from my first year biology professor during my undergraduate studies at McMaster University. Genetic counselling is the perfect combination of patient care and science. Genetics is constantly evolving so there is always something new to learn.

“The most rewarding patient encounter is being able to tell them that they have not inherited the cause for cancer in their family”

What do you love most about your job? I love meeting new patients and hearing their stories and their family histories. I love helping people understand their risk to develop cancer and creating a plan to reduce that risk. The most rewarding patient encounter is being able to tell them that they have not inherited the cause for cancer in their family and they are not at high risk. The relief is indescribable.

Describe one of your most challenging days at work. I had a patient who has gone through unbelievable devastating life events and I had to give her bad news that she had inherited a mutation that puts her at very high risk to develop breast and ovarian cancer. It was devastating to me to have to tell her the results.

What is one thing you wish patients and colleagues knew about you? That I am not related to Dr. Lynch who described Lynch Syndrome, which is a hereditary predisposition to colon and other GI and gynaecological cancers that I frequently counsel patients about.

What do you wish you had more time for at work? I wish I had more time for research. Genetics is such an exciting and evolving field. We are always coming up with potential research projects that we would love to carry out, but our clinical patient work comes first, and usually that doesn’t leave much time for extra projects.

“There’s nothing better than coming home from a busy day and seeing her smiling face and getting a great big hug. She gives the best hugs.”

What do you do after work to unwind? I go home and spend time with my 20 month old daughter and my husband. There’s nothing better than coming home from a busy day and seeing her smiling face and getting a great big hug. She gives the best hugs.

What do you eat to keep you energized at work? I have to start each day with a coffee, usually from the hummingbird café. Since Jonny Blonde’s Kitchen opened up across the street from the JCC, I have developed a bit of an obsession with his food. I love supporting local small businesses.

When you tell people what you do, how do they usually react? People usually think I work in a laboratory and manipulate genes or do gene therapy. When I explain to them that I see patients with a family history of cancer and try to determine if their cancer is hereditary and outline screening and prevention options, the most common reaction is “That’s so interesting”.

Tell us about your most gratifying experience at HHS. I saw a gentleman that carried a hereditary condition which predisposes to cancer and tumours, and he had 3 young daughters at risk to inherit the condition. All 3 girls tested negative and were no longer at risk. Giving those results to the man was so gratifying as he no longer had to worry about his daughters.