VUMC’s Lang, Stover receive genetic counseling awardsJan. 12, 2023, 9:15 AM
by Danny Bonvissuto
Two of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s genetic counselors were honored at the 2022 Heart of Genetic Counseling Award ceremony in November.
Part of the National Society of Genetic Counselors’ 41st annual conference in Nashville, the award ceremony recognized 16 patient-nominated counselors who guided families through major medical challenges with exceptional compassion and care.
Katie Lang, MS, CGC, a senior associate in the Division of Genetic Medicine and director of Cancer Genetic Counseling Services, was nominated by Stefanie Curtiss, a patient whose mother was diagnosed with Lynch syndrome.
“Having someone like Katie sit with you through it all and encourage you to move forward when you are scared is priceless,” Curtiss said. “I have no doubt that if I hadn’t had such a positive experience with Katie, I wouldn’t have followed through with genetic testing. My sisters and I would have been walking around undiagnosed.”
Samantha (Sam) Stover, MS, CGC, an OB-GYN assistant, was nominated by Brittany Steitz, a Texas-based mother whose baby died in utero as a result of CDPX1, an X-linked skeletal dysplasia.
“She spent hours with us, walking us through every word on the report, translating medical terms, listening to our questions, and talking us through the conditions Logan might have. We also had hard talks about his quality of life,” Steitz said. “She always called him by his name, which means more to a mother than I could ever express.”
Martha Dudek, MS, LCGC, program director of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM) Master of Genetic Counseling and assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, has seen firsthand how deserving Lang and Stover are of this recognition.
“Katie’s commitment to ensuring patients receive comprehensive cancer care goes beyond the patient visit. She works to improve the experience for all patients by implementing improvements in workflow and access to broaden the reach of the cancer genetics team,” she said. “Sam gets to each patient’s journey and strives to connect them with the answers they are seeking for themselves and their family.”
To meet the increased demand for genetic counselors, VUMC has added more staff in recent years, including five out of 11 graduates from the first two classes of VUSM’s Master of Genetic Counseling degree program, which began in 2019.
“Initially there were only a handful of genetic counselors, and they were all housed in the Department of Pediatrics,” Dudek said. “Sam and Katie’s contributions demonstrate the need for genetic counseling across the institution, including cancer, reproductive genetics, cardiologyand neurology, as well as research and laboratory. Now there are 29 genetic counselors at VUMC in four different departments.”