Search tips
Search criteria

Results 1-22 (22)

Clipboard (0)

Select a Filter Below

Year of Publication
Document Types
1.  Perceived ambiguity as a barrier to intentions to learn genome sequencing results 
Journal of behavioral medicine  2015;38(5):715-726.
Many variants that could be returned from genome sequencing may be perceived as ambiguous—lacking reliability, credibility, or adequacy. Little is known about how perceived ambiguity influences thoughts about sequencing results. Participants (n=494) in an NIH genome sequencing study completed a baseline survey before sequencing results were available. We examined how perceived ambiguity regarding sequencing results and individual differences in medical ambiguity aversion and tolerance for uncertainty were associated with cognitions and intentions concerning sequencing results. Perceiving sequencing results as more ambiguous was associated with less favorable cognitions about results and lower intentions to learn and share results. Among participants low in tolerance for uncertainty or optimism, greater perceived ambiguity was associated with lower intentions to learn results for non-medically actionable diseases; medical ambiguity aversion did not moderate any associations. Results are consistent with the phenomenon of “ambiguity aversion” and may influence whether people learn and communicate genomic information.
PMCID: PMC4568142  PMID: 26003053
genetic/genome testing; ambiguity aversion; perceived ambiguity; optimism; tolerance for uncertainty; response efficacy
2.  Dispositional Optimism and Perceived Risk Interact to Predict Intentions to Learn Genome Sequencing Results 
Dispositional optimism and risk perceptions are each associated with health-related behaviors and decisions and other outcomes, but little research has examined how these constructs interact, particularly in consequential health contexts. The predictive validity of risk perceptions for health-related information seeking and intentions may be improved by examining dispositional optimism as a moderator, and by testing alternate types of risk perceptions, such as comparative and experiential risk.
Participants (n = 496) had their genomes sequenced as part of a National Institutes of Health pilot cohort study (ClinSeq®). Participants completed a cross-sectional baseline survey of various types of risk perceptions and intentions to learn genome sequencing results for differing disease risks (e.g., medically actionable, nonmedically actionable, carrier status) and to use this information to change their lifestyle/health behaviors.
Risk perceptions (absolute, comparative, and experiential) were largely unassociated with intentions to learn sequencing results. Dispositional optimism and comparative risk perceptions interacted, however, such that individuals higher in optimism reported greater intentions to learn all 3 types of sequencing results when comparative risk was perceived to be higher than when it was perceived to be lower. This interaction was inconsistent for experiential risk and absent for absolute risk. Independent of perceived risk, participants high in dispositional optimism reported greater interest in learning risks for nonmedically actionable disease and carrier status, and greater intentions to use genome information to change their lifestyle/health behaviors.
The relationship between risk perceptions and intentions may depend on how risk perceptions are assessed and on degree of optimism.
PMCID: PMC4395524  PMID: 25313897
dispositional optimism; perceived risk; genetics; genomics; comparative risk
3.  Development and validation of the Psychological Adaptation Scale (PAS): Use in six studies of adaptation to a health condition or risk 
Patient education and counseling  2013;93(2):10.1016/j.pec.2013.05.006.
We introduce The Psychological Adaptation Scale (PAS) for assessing adaptation to a chronic condition or risk and present validity data from six studies of genetic conditions.
Informed by theory, we identified four domains of adaptation: effective coping, self-esteem, social integration, and spiritual/existential meaning. Items were selected from the PROMIS “positive illness impact” item bank and adapted from the Rosenberg self-esteem scale to create a 20-item scale. Each domain included five items, with four sub-scale scores. Data from studies of six populations: adults affected with or at risk for genetic conditions (N=3) and caregivers of children with genetic conditions (N=3) were analyzed using confirmatory factor analyses (CFA).
CFA suggested that all but five posited items converge on the domains as designed. Invariance of the PAS amongst the studies further suggested it is a valid and reliable tool to facilitate comparisons of adaptation across conditions.
Use of the PAS will standardize assessments of adaptation and foster understanding of the relationships among related health outcomes, such as quality of life and psychological well-being.
Practice Implications
Clinical interventions can be designed based on PAS data to enhance dimensions of psychological adaptation to a chronic health condition or risk.
PMCID: PMC3810267  PMID: 23993396
4.  An approach to pediatric exome and genome sequencing 
Current opinion in pediatrics  2014;26(6):639-645.
Purpose of review
Exome and genome sequencing have recently emerged as clinical tools to resolve undiagnosed genetic conditions. Protocols are critically needed to identify proper patients for testing; select a test and laboratory; engage parents in shared decision making; and the return of results.
Recent findings
Among well-selected patients, the likelihood for identifying the causative gene change may be as high as 30%. It is key for pediatricians to consider whether sequencing should be the primary line of pursuit of a molecular diagnosis. Parents should understand the uncertainties inherent in this sequencing and the preference-based nature of testing. Pediatricians can engage in shared decision making for this process and work to help parents make decisions consistent with their priorities and values. Upon receipt of a pathogenic mutation, discussion of the likelihood for future treatment is paramount to parents, as are the implications for recurrence within the family. Uncertainties inherent to genomic results need to be explained in the context of the likelihood of future research and discoveries.
Pediatricians should make a deliberate decision with each patient whether to manage genomic testing on their own, refer the patient for such testing, or initiate the process and refer simultaneously. Regardless of which approach is taken, understanding the basics of this testing will allow the pediatrician to support the parents through the diagnostic process.
PMCID: PMC4278363  PMID: 25304963
genome sequencing; exome sequencing; informed consent; genetic counseling
5.  Characterization of Courtesy Stigma Perceived by Parents of Overweight Children with Bardet-Biedl Syndrome 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(10):e0140705.
A child’s obesity is generally perceived by the public to be under the control of the child’s parents. While the health consequences of childhood obesity are well understood, less is known about psychological and social effects of having an obese child on parents. We set out to characterize stigma and courtesy stigma experiences surrounding obesity among children with Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS), a multisystem genetic disorder, and their parents.
Twenty-eight parents of children with BBS participated in semi-structured interviews informed by social stigmatization theory, which describes courtesy stigma as parental perception of stigmatization by association with a stigmatized child. Parents were asked to describe such experiences.
Parents of children with BBS reported the child’s obesity as the most frequent target of stigmatization. They perceived health care providers as the predominant source of courtesy stigma, describing interactions that resulted in feeling devalued and judged as incompetent parents.
Parents of children with BBS feel blamed by others for their child’s obesity and described experiences that suggest health care providers may contribute to courtesy stigma and thus impede effective communication about managing obesity. Health care providers may reinforce parental feelings of guilt and responsibility by repeating information parents may have previously heard and ignoring extremely challenging barriers to weight management, such as a genetic predisposition to obesity. Strategies to understand and incorporate parents’ perceptions and causal attributions of their children’s weight may improve communication about weight control.
PMCID: PMC4608820  PMID: 26473736
6.  Research participants' attitudes towards the confidentiality of genomic sequence information 
Respecting the confidentiality of personal data contributed to genomic studies is an important issue for researchers using genomic sequencing in humans. Although most studies adhere to rules of confidentiality, there are different conceptions of confidentiality and why it is important. The resulting ambiguity obscures what is at stake when making tradeoffs between data protection and other goals in research, such as transparency, reciprocity, and public benefit. Few studies have examined why participants in genomic research care about how their information is used. To explore this topic, we conducted semi-structured phone interviews with 30 participants in two National Institutes of Health research protocols using genomic sequencing. Our results show that research participants value confidentiality as a form of control over information about themselves. To the individuals we interviewed, control was valued as a safeguard against discrimination in a climate of uncertainty about future uses of individual genome data. Attitudes towards data sharing were related to the goals of research and details of participants' personal lives. Expectations of confidentiality, trust in researchers, and a desire to advance science were common reasons for willingness to share identifiable data with investigators. Nearly, all participants were comfortable sharing personal data that had been de-identified. These findings suggest that views about confidentiality and data sharing are highly nuanced and are related to the perceived benefits of joining a research study.
PMCID: PMC4350593  PMID: 24281371
genomics; privacy; confidentiality
7.  Characterizing Participants in the ClinSeq Genome Sequencing Cohort as Early Adopters of a New Health Technology 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0132690.
Genome sequencing is a novel clinical tool that has the potential to identify genetic origins of disease. However, the complexities of this new technology are significant and little is known about its integration into clinical care, and its potential adoption by patients. Expectations of its promise for personalized medicine are high and it is important to properly match expectations to the realities of the test. The NIH ClinSeq cohort study pilots the integration of genome sequencing into clinical research and care to assess the technical, medical and socio-behavioral aspects of implementing this technology. Over 950 adults ages 45-65 have been enrolled and clinically phenotyped. As an initial study, we describe the personality traits of ClinSeq participants, and explore how these traits compare to those that characterize early adopters of other new technologies. Our analysis was conducted on responses from 630 members of the cohort who completed a baseline survey on health cognitions, affect, health-related behaviors and personality traits, prior to receipt of any genome sequencing results. The majority of participants were white (90.5%), had at least a college degree (86.5%), and had at least one biological child (74.6%). Members of this ClinSeq sample were found to be high in dispositional optimism and resilience. Their high SES paralleled that of other early adopters of new technology. These attributes may contribute to participants’ expectations for favorable outcomes and willingness to take higher risks when compared to the general population. These characteristics may distinguish those who are most likely to pursue genome sequencing and be indicative of their psychological resources to manage returned results.
PMCID: PMC4506048  PMID: 26186621
8.  Social and behavioral research in genomic sequencing: approaches from the Clinical Sequencing Exploratory Research Consortium Outcomes and Measures Working Group 
The routine use of genomic sequencing in clinical medicine has the potential to dramatically alter patient care and medical outcomes. To fully understand the psychosocial and behavioral impact of sequencing integration into clinical practice, it is imperative that we identify the factors that influence sequencing-related decision making and patient outcomes. In an effort to develop a collaborative and conceptually grounded approach to studying sequencing adoption, members of the National Human Genome Research Institute's Clinical Sequencing Exploratory Research Consortium formed the Outcomes and Measures Working Group. Here we highlight the priority areas of investigation and psychosocial and behavioral outcomes identified by the Working Group. We also review some of the anticipated challenges to measurement in social and behavioral research related to genomic sequencing; opportunities for instrument development; and the importance of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method approaches. This work represents the early, shared efforts of multiple research teams as we strive to understand individuals' experiences with genomic sequencing. The resulting body of knowledge will guide recommendations for the optimal use of sequencing in clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC4163120  PMID: 24625446
behavior; genome sequencing; measures; outcomes; psychosocial
9.  Genetic Literacy and Patient Perceptions of IBD Testing Utility and Disease Control: A Randomized Vignette Study of Genetic Testing 
Inflammatory bowel diseases  2014;20(5):901-908.
Findings from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) genome-wide association studies are being translated clinically into prognostic and diagnostic indicators of disease. Yet, patient perception and understanding of these tests and their applicability to providing risk information is unclear. The goal of this study was to determine, using hypothetical scenarios, whether patients with IBD perceive genetic testing to be useful for risk assessment, whether genetic test results impact perceived control, and whether low genetic literacy may be a barrier to patient understanding of these tests.
Two hundred fifty seven patients with IBD from the Johns Hopkins gastroenterology clinics were randomized to receive a vignette depicting either a genetic testing scenario or a standard blood testing scenario. Participants were asked questions about the vignette and responses were compared between groups.
Perceptions of test utility for risk assessment were higher among participants responding to the genetic vignette (P < 0.001). There were no significant differences in perceptions of control over IBD after hypothetical testing between vignettes (P = 0.24). Participant responses were modified by genetic literacy, measured using a scale developed for this study. Participants randomized to the genetic vignette who scored higher on the genetic literacy scale perceived greater utility of testing for risk assessment (P = 0.008) and more control after testing (P = 0.02).
Patients with IBD perceive utility in genetic testing for providing information relevant to family members, and this appreciation is promoted by genetic literacy. Low genetic literacy among patients poses a potential threat to effective translation of genetic and genomic tests.
PMCID: PMC4141772  PMID: 24691112
genetic literacy; genetic testing; IBD
10.  Teaching Genomic Counseling: Preparing the Genetic Counseling Workforce for the Genomic Era 
Journal of genetic counseling  2014;23(4):445-451.
Genetic counselors have a long-standing history of working on the clinical forefront of implementing new genetic technology. Genomic sequencing is no exception. The rapid advancement of genomic sequencing technologies, including but not limited to next generation sequencing approaches, across all subspecialties of genetic counseling mandates attention to genetic counselor training at both the graduate and continuing education levels. The current era provides a tremendous opportunity for counselors to become actively involved in making genomics more accessible, engaging the population in decisions to undergo sequencing and effectively translating genomic information to promote health and well-being. In this commentary, we explore reasons why genomic sequencing warrants particular consideration and put forward strategies for training program curricula and continuing education programs to meet this need.
PMCID: PMC4096068  PMID: 24504939
Genomics; Next Generation Sequencing; Genetic Counseling Training; Continuing Education
11.  Intentions to receive individual results from whole-genome sequencing among participants in the ClinSeq study 
Genome sequencing has been rapidly integrated into clinical research and is currently marketed to health-care practitioners and consumers alike. The volume of sequencing data generated for a single individual and the wide range of findings from whole-genome sequencing raise critical questions about the return of results and their potential value for end-users. We conducted a mixed-methods study of 311 sequential participants in the NIH ClinSeq study to assess general preferences and specific attitudes toward learning results. We tested how these variables predicted intentions to receive results within four categories of findings ranging from medically actionable to variants of unknown significance. Two hundred and ninety-four participants indicated a preference to learn their genome sequencing results. Most often, participants cited disease prevention as their reason, including intention to change their lifestyle behaviors. Participants held positive attitudes, strongly perceived social norms and strong intentions to learn results, although there were significant mean differences among four categories of findings (P<0.01). Attitudes and social norms for medically actionable and carrier results were most similar and rated the highest. Participants distinguished among the types and quality of information they may receive, despite strong intentions to learn all results presented. These intentions were motivated by confidence in their ability to use the information to prevent future disease and a belief in the value of even uninterpretable information. It behooves investigators to facilitate participants' desire to learn a range of information from genomic sequencing while promoting realistic expectations for its clinical and personal utility.
PMCID: PMC3573208  PMID: 22892536
whole-genome sequencing; individual results; attitudes and intentions
12.  Adaptation to bipolar disorder and perceived risk to children: a survey of parents with bipolar disorder 
BMC Psychiatry  2013;13:327.
Bipolar disorder (BPD) is a common condition associated with significant morbidity and reduced quality of life. In addition to challenges caused by their mood symptoms, parents affected with BPD harbor concerns about the mental health of their children. Among adult parents who perceive themselves to have BPD, this study aims to examine participants’ coping methods; identify predictors of adaptation; assess parental perceptions of risks for mood disorders among their children; and describe the relationships among illness appraisals, coping, adaptation to one’s own illness, and perceived risk to one’s children.
Parents who self-identified as having BPD completed a web-based survey that assessed dispositional optimism, coping, perceived illness severity, perceived etiology of BPD, perceived risk to offspring, and adaptation to BPD. Participants had at least one unaffected child who was 30 years of age or below.
266 parents were included in the analysis. 87% of parents endorsed a “somewhat greater” or “much greater” risk for mood disorders in one’s child(ren) than someone without a family history. Endorsing a genetic/familial etiology to BPD was positively correlated with perceived risk for mood disorders in children (rs = .3, p < 0.01) and active coping with BDP (r = .2, p < 0.01). Increased active coping (β = 0.4, p < 0.001) and dispositional optimism (β = 0.3, p < 0.001) were positively associated with better adaptation, while using denial coping was negatively associated with adaptation (β = −0.3, p < 0.001). The variables explained 55.2% of the variance in adaptation (F = 73.2, p < 0.001). Coping mediated the effect of perceived illness severity on adaptation.
These data inform studies of interventions that extend beyond symptom management and aim to improve the psychological wellbeing of parents with BPD. Interventions targeted at illness perceptions and those aimed at enhancing coping should be studied for positive effects on adaptation. Parents with BPD may benefit from genetic counseling to promote active coping with their condition, and manage worry about perceived risk to their children.
PMCID: PMC3879194  PMID: 24294897
Bipolar disorder; Adaptation; Quality of life; Genetic; Risk perception
13.  Effects of informed consent for individual genome sequencing on relevant knowledge 
Clinical genetics  2012;82(5):408-415.
Increasing availability of individual genomic information suggests that patients will need knowledge about genome sequencing to make informed decisions, but prior research is limited. In this study, we examined genome sequencing knowledge before and after informed consent among 311 participants enrolled in the ClinSeq™ sequencing study. An exploratory factor analysis of knowledge items yielded two factors (sequencing limitations knowledge; sequencing benefits knowledge). In multivariable analysis, high pre-consent sequencing limitations knowledge scores were significantly related to education (OR: 8.7, 95% CI: 2.45, 31.10 for postgraduate education and OR: 3.9; 95% CI: 1.05, 14.61 for college degree compared to less than college degree) and race/ethnicity (OR: 2.4, 95% CI: 1.09, 5.38 for non-Hispanic whites compared to other racial/ethnic groups). Mean values increased significantly between pre- and post-consent for the sequencing limitations knowledge subscale (6.9 to 7.7, p<0.0001) and sequencing benefits knowledge subscale (7.0 to 7.5, p<0.0001); increase in knowledge did not differ by sociodemographic characteristics. This study highlights gaps in genome sequencing knowledge, and underscores the need to target educational efforts toward participants with less education or from minority racial/ethnic groups. The informed consent process improved genome sequencing knowledge. Future studies could examine how genome sequencing knowledge influences informed decision making.
PMCID: PMC3469729  PMID: 22694298
genomic knowledge; genome sequencing; informed consent; knowledge
14.  On Averages and Peaks: How Do People Integrate Attitudes about Multiple Diseases to Reach a Decision about Multiplex Genetic Testing? 
The aim of the current study was to learn how people integrate attitudes about multiple health conditions to make a decision about genetic testing uptake.
This study recruited 294 healthy young adults from a parent research project, the Multiplex Initiative, conducted in a large health care system in Detroit, Michigan. All participants were offered a multiplex genetic test that assessed risk for 8 common health conditions (e.g., type 2 diabetes). Data were collected from a baseline survey, a web-based survey, and at the time of testing.
Averaging attitudes across diseases predicted test uptake but did not contribute beyond peak attitudes, the highest attitude toward testing for a single disease in the set. Peak attitudes were found sufficient to predict test uptake.
The effects of set size and mode of presentation could not be examined because these factors were constant in the multiplex test offered.
These findings support theories suggesting that people use representative evaluations in attitude formation. The implication of these findings for further developments in genetic testing is that the communication and impact of multiplex testing may need to be considered in the light of a bias toward peak attitudes.
PMCID: PMC3799841  PMID: 23128581
cognitive psychology; judgment and decision psychology; patient choice modeling; social judgment theory
16.  Factors Associated with Perceived Uncertainty among Parents of Children with Undiagnosed Medical Conditions 
Uncertainty is a pervasive characteristic of illness. Yet little is known about the individual or situational factors that contribute to perceptions of uncertainty. The present study aims to examine the factors that contribute to perceived uncertainty among parents of a child with an undiagnosed condition. Two hundred sixty-six parents of a child, or children, affected by an undiagnosed medical condition for at least two years completed an electronically administered mixed-methods survey assessing theoretical predictors of perceived uncertainty. Multivariate linear regression analyses were used to identify the relationship of key variables to perceived uncertainty. Parents' perceived control and optimism were negatively associated with uncertainty (B = −4.044, p ≤ 0.001, B = −0.477, p ≤ 0.05). Subjective disease severity was positively associated with perceived uncertainty (B = 1.797, p ≤ 0.05). Our findings suggest that parents who experience greater uncertainty feel less control over their child's medical condition, which may lead to less effective coping and poorer adaptation. Parents who are less optimistic or who perceive their child's disease as more severe may benefit most from interventions that target situations where parents perceive the least control, thereby enhancing coping and ultimately, adaptation.
PMCID: PMC3402688  PMID: 22711240
uncertainty; rare diseases; perceived control; parents; undiagnosed
17.  Risk perceptions and worry about common diseases: A between- and within-subjects examination 
Psychology & health  2012;28(4):434-449.
To test the relationships between worry and perceptions of likelihood and severity (two indicators of risk perception) across eight common diseases, and to examine contributions of individual and disease variability in worry and risk perceptions.
Participants were 294 people recruited through the Multiplex Initiative, in which a genetic susceptibility test for 8 common diseases was offered to healthy adults. Participants completed a baseline telephone survey and Web-based surveys measuring the variables for this ancillary study, without a commitment to be tested.
Between- and within-subjects analyses yielded the following findings: 1) worry is more related to likelihood perceptions than to severity perceptions; 2) severity perceptions add significantly to explained worry variances above and beyond likelihood perceptions; 3) the likelihood × severity perception does not add to explained variance in worry above its components; 4) risk perceptions and worries form two identifiable clusters: cancer diseases and cardiovascular-metabolic diseases; 5) there are significant differences in risk perceptions and worry among diseases; 6) there are significant gender differences in risk perceptions and worry about common diseases; 7) variance in risk perception and worry is explained by a combination of between- and within-subjects variances, with the latter being more powerful.
Risk perception research should pay attention to severity perceptions, within-subjects variability and inter-disease differences should not be ignored, gender perspectives on illness perceptions should be acknowledged, and health psychologists must prepare for considering groups of illnesses in addition to single diseases.
PMCID: PMC3566271  PMID: 23121110
risk perception; worry; severity; likelihood; within-subjects
18.  Motivators for participation in a whole-genome sequencing study: implications for translational genomics research 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2011;19(12):1213-1217.
The promise of personalized medicine depends on the ability to integrate genetic sequencing information into disease risk assessment for individuals. As genomic sequencing technology enters the realm of clinical care, its scale necessitates answers to key social and behavioral research questions about the complexities of understanding, communicating, and ultimately using sequence information to improve health. Our study captured the motivations and expectations of research participants who consented to participate in a research protocol, ClinSeq, which offers to return a subset of the data generated through high-throughput sequencing. We present findings from an exploratory study of 322 participants, most of whom identified themselves as white, non-Hispanic, and coming from higher socio-economic groups. Participants aged 45–65 years answered open-ended questions about the reasons they consented to ClinSeq and about what they anticipated would come of genomic sequencing. Two main reasons for participating were as follows: a conviction to altruism in promoting research, and a desire to learn more about genetic factors that contribute to one's own health risk. Overall, participants expected genomic research to help improve understanding of disease causes and treatments. Our findings offer a first glimpse into the motivations and expectations of individuals seeking their own genomic information, and provide initial insights into the value these early adopters of technology place on information generated by high-throughput sequencing studies.
PMCID: PMC3230362  PMID: 21731059
whole-genome sequencing; personalized medicine; early adopters
19.  Modeling Decisions to Undergo Genetic Testing for Susceptibility to Common Health Conditions: An Ancillary Study of the Multiplex Initiative 
Psychology & health  2011;27(4):430-444.
New genetic tests reveal risks for multiple conditions simultaneously, although little is understood about the psychological factors that affect testing uptake. We assessed a conceptual model called the Multiplex Genetic Testing Model (MGTM) using structural equation modeling (SEM). The MGTM delineates worry, perceived severity, perceived risk, response efficacy and attitudes toward testing as predictors of intentions and behavior. Participants were 270 healthy insured adults age 25–40 from the Multiplex Initiative conducted within a health care system in Detroit MI, USA. Participants were offered a genetic test that assessed risk for eight common health conditions. Confirmatory factor analysis revealed that worry, perceived risk and severity clustered into two disease domains: cancer or metabolic conditions. Only perceived severity of metabolic conditions was correlated with general response efficacy (β=0.13, p<0.05), which predicted general attitudes toward testing (β=0.24, p<0.01). Consistent with our hypothesized model, attitudes towards testing were the strongest predictors of intentions to undergo testing (β=0.49, p<0.01), which in turn predicted testing uptake (OR 17.7, β=0.97, p<0.01). The MGTM explained a striking 48% of the variance in intentions and 94% of the variation in uptake. These findings support use of the MGTM to explain psychological predictors of testing for multiple health conditions.
PMCID: PMC3175306  PMID: 21660870
Genetic testing; Multiplex Initiative; health behavior; common disease; structural equation modeling; personalized medicine; U.S.A.
20.  Examination of standardized patient performance: Accuracy and consistency of six standardized patients over time 
Patient education and counseling  2010;85(2):194-200.
To explore the accuracy and consistency of standardized patient (SP) performance in the context of routine genetic counseling, focusing on elements beyond scripted case items including general communication style and affective demeanor.
One hundred seventy-seven genetic counselors were randomly assigned to counsel one of six SPs. Videotapes and transcripts of the sessions were analyzed to assess consistency of performance across four dimensions.
Accuracy of script item presentation was high; 91% and 89% in the prenatal and cancer cases. However, there were statistically significant differences among SPs in the accuracy of presentation, general communication style, and some aspects of affective presentation. All SPs were rated as presenting with similarly high levels of realism. SP performance over time was generally consistent, with some small but statistically significant differences.
Conclusion and practice implications
These findings demonstrate that well-trained SPs can not only perform the factual elements of a case with high degrees of accuracy and realism; but they can also maintain sufficient levels of uniformity in general communication style and affective demeanor over time to support their use in even the demanding context of genetic counseling. Results indicate a need for an additional focus in training on consistency between different SPs.
PMCID: PMC3158971  PMID: 21094590
Standardized patient; Genetic counseling; Provider–patient communication; Accuracy; Consistency
21.  Quality of Life in Rare Genetic Conditions: A Systematic Review of the Literature 
Quality of life (QoL) refers to an individual's sense of overall well-being encompassing physical, psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions. Although genetics healthcare providers strive to promote patient well-being, and the term QoL is often invoked to refer to this outcome, there is lack of clarity as to what actually constitutes QoL from the patient's perspective. This systematic literature review aims to summarize and integrate research findings to help elucidate how healthcare providers can more effectively enhance the QoL of patients affected with rare genetic conditions. Eligible studies were those that measured QoL as a primary outcome variable using a validated, multi-dimensional scale. Detailed criteria were used to rate quality of design, methodology, and analytic rigor. Fifty-eight studies were selected for inclusion in the review, and a narrative synthesis of the data was performed. A central theme emerging from the literature is that, although genetic conditions have the potential to have significant negative consequences for individuals' lives, having a genetic condition does not necessarily entail poor QoL. Evidence demonstrates that factors beyond the physical manifestations of the disease, such as psychological well -being, coping, and illness perceptions, influence QoL and may serve as potent targets for intervention. The field of research on QoL in rare genetic conditions will be advanced by uniting around a clear conceptualization of QoL and using more rigorous methodology with comprehensive measures of global QoL.†
PMCID: PMC3113481  PMID: 20425818
quality of life; genetic diseases; genetic counseling; psychological adaptation
22.  Exploration of transitional life events in individuals with Friedreich ataxia: Implications for genetic counseling 
Human development is a process of change, adaptation and growth. Throughout this process, transitional events mark important points in time when one's life course is significantly altered. This study captures transitional life events brought about or altered by Friedreich ataxia, a progressive chronic illness leading to disability, and the impact of these events on an affected individual's life course.
Forty-two adults with Friedreich ataxia (18-65y) were interviewed regarding their perceptions of transitional life events. Data from the interviews were coded and analyzed thematically using an iterative process.
Identified transitions were either a direct outcome of Friedreich ataxia, or a developmental event altered by having the condition. Specifically, an awareness of symptoms, fear of falling and changes in mobility status were the most salient themes from the experience of living with Friedreich ataxia. Developmental events primarily influenced by the condition were one's relationships and life's work.
Friedreich ataxia increased the complexity and magnitude of transitional events for study participants. Transitional events commonly represented significant loss and presented challenges to self-esteem and identity. Findings from this study help alert professionals of potentially challenging times in patients' lives, which are influenced by chronic illness or disability. Implications for developmental counseling approaches are suggested for genetic counseling.
Human development can be described in terms of key transitional events, or significant times of change. Transitional events initiate shifts in the meaning or direction of life and require the individual to develop skills or utilize coping strategies to adapt to a novel situation [1,2]. A successful transition has been defined as the development of a sense of mastery over the changed event [3].
Transitions can be influenced by a variety of factors including one's stage of development, such as graduation from high school, historical events, including war, and idiosyncratic factors, such as health status [4,5]. Of particular interest in the present study are transitional life events, brought about or altered by progressive chronic illness and disability, and the impact of these events on the lives of affected individuals.
It has been recognized that the clinical characteristics of a chronic illness or disability may alter the course and timing of many developmentally-related transitional events [6]. For example, conditions associated with a shortened lifespan may cause an individual to pursue a career with a shorter course of training [6]. Specific medical manifestations may also promote a lifestyle incongruent with developmental needs [6,7]. For example, an adolescent with a disability may have difficulty achieving autonomy because of his/her physical dependence on others.
In addition to the aforementioned effects of chronic illness and disability on developmentally-related transitional events, a growing body of literature has described disease-related transitional events: those changes that are a direct result of chronic illness and disability. Diagnosis has received attention as being a key disease-related transitional event [8,9]. Studies have also noted other disease transitions related to illness trajectory [10], as the clinical features of the disease may require the individual to make specific adaptations. Disease-related events have also been described in terms of accompanying psychological processes, such as one's awareness of differences brought about by illness [11].
While disease-related events are seemingly significant, the patient's perception of the events is varied. Some events may be perceived as positive experiences for the individual. For example, a diagnosis may end years of uncertainty. Some individuals may perceive these transitional events as insignificant, as they have accommodated to the continual change brought about by a chronic disease [12,13].
The aforementioned impact of disability and chronic illness on transitional events may create psychological stress. Developed by Lazarus and Folkman, the Transitional Model of Stress and Coping describes the process of adaptation to a health condition [14]. This model purports that individuals first appraise a stressor and then utilize a variety of coping strategies in order to meet the stressor's demands [14]. Thus, in the context of chronic illness, the ability of the individual to cope successfully with the stress of a health threat contributes to the process of overall adaptation to the condition.
The process of adaptation can be more complex when the chronic illness or disability is progressive. Each transition brought about or altered by the disability may also represent additional loss, including the loss of future plans, freedom in social life and the ability to participate in hobbies [15]. These losses may be accompanied by grief, uncertainty, and a continual need for adaptation [16,17].
Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is one example of a progressive disorder, leading to adolescent and adult onset disability. To better understand patients' perceptions of key transitional events and the factors perceived to facilitate progression through these events, individuals with FRDA were interviewed.
FRDA is a rare, progressive, neurodegenerative disorder affecting approximately one in 30,000 people in the United States [18]. It equally affects both men and women. Individuals with FRDA experience progressive muscle weakness and loss of coordination in the arms and legs. For most patients, ataxia leads to motor incapacitation and full-time use of a wheelchair, commonly by the late teens or early twenties. Other complications such as vision and hearing impairment, dysarthria, scoliosis, diabetes mellitus and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may occur [19,20]. Cardiomyopathy and respiratory difficulties often lead to premature death at an average age of 37 years [21]. Currently, there are no treatments or cures for FRDA. Little is known about the specific psychological or psychosocial effects of the condition.
FRDA is an autosomal recessive condition. The typical molecular basis of Friedreich ataxia is the expansion of a GAA trinucleotide repeat in both copies of the FXN gene [22]. Age of onset usually occurs in late childhood or early adolescence. However, the availability of genetic testing has identified affected individuals with an adult form of the condition. This late-onset form is thought to represent approximately 10-15% of the total FRDA population [23].
Health care providers of individuals with progressive, neurodegenerative disorders can help facilitate their patients' progression through transitional events. Data suggest that improvements should be made in the care of these individuals. Shaw et al. [24] found that individualized care that helps to prepare patients for transition is beneficial. Beisecker et al. [25] found that patients desire not only physical care from their providers, but also emotional and psychosocial support.
Genetic counselors have an important opportunity to help patients with neuromuscular disorders progress through transitional events, as several of these conditions have a genetic etiology. Genetic counselors in pediatric and adult settings often develop long-term relationships with patients, due to follow-up care. This extended relationship is becoming increasingly common as genetic counselors move into various medical sub-specialties, such as neurology, ophthalmology, oncology and cardiology.
The role of the genetic counselor in addressing the psychosocial needs of patients has been advocated, but rarely framed in the context of developmental events [26]. Data suggest that patients may not expect a genetic counselor to address psychosocial needs [27]. In a survey of genetic counseling patients, Wertz [28] found a majority of respondents understood genetic conditions to have a moderate to serious effect on family life and finances, while almost half perceived there to be an effect on the spouse, quality of life, and the relationship between home and work. However, these topics were reportedly not discussed within genetic counseling sessions [27,28]. Overall, there is limited information about the experiences of transitional life events in FRDA, as well as a lack of recommendations for genetic counselors and other health care providers to assist patients through these events.
Our study investigated perceptions of patients with Friedreich ataxia to 1) identify key transitional events and specific needs associated with events; 2) describe perception of factors to facilitate progression through the identified events; and 3) explore the actual or potential role of the health care provider in facilitating adaptation to the identified events. Data were used to make suggestions for developmental genetic counseling approaches in the context of ongoing care of clients with hereditary, progressive, neurodegenerative conditions.
PMCID: PMC2987979  PMID: 20979606

Results 1-22 (22)