“I am dedicated to offering a compassionate genetic counselling service and always putting the needs of my clients first. I am a strong believer in working as part of a multi-disciplinary team and therefore consult with a team of specialists, in order to ensure that I offer the best care and advice.”
I gained an interest in psychology during a youth counsellor training course in high school. I was introduced to genetics in Grade 12 Biology class and was mesmerised from day one. I find it fascinating that we each have our own unique code which is translated to determine the form and function of our body.
Growing up, I met a few children with genetic conditions and their families, as my mother was a teacher for children with special needs. I recall wondering how these conditions happened and how I could help my new friends and their families. At that time, I had not yet heard of genetic counselling as a profession and therefore decided to pursue a career in psychology.
After completing high school, I enrolled at Stellenbosch University for a BSc undergraduate degree, majoring in both psychology and genetics. I graduated in 2007 with a BSc in Biological Human Life Sciences. It was during this final year of undergraduate studies, that I was introduced to the genetic counselling profession. As this profession would combine my interest in psychology and genetics, I immediately knew that this would be the perfect.
I contacted the University of Cape Town (UCT) to inquire about the entry requirements and was advised that I needed an Honours degree before I would be eligible to apply. In 2008 I enrolled for a BSc Honours degree in Genetics at Stellenbosch University which I completed in the same year. The following year, I applied for the MSc Med degree in Genetic Counselling at UCT. I was told that the they were only accepting students in July of that year. As I had to wait for 6 months, I decided to volunteer at the Down Syndrome Association Western Cape (DSAWC).
After this period, I was fortunate enough to be accepted for the MSc Med in Genetic Counselling course. As I had built such a good relationship with the families of the DSAWC, I continued to volunteer and incorporated this into my training as a genetic counsellor. My involvement with the DSAWC, also inspired me to do my Masters research thesis on the experiences of families raising a child with Down syndrome. To this day, I am still part of the DSAWC family and currently serve as the chairperson of their managing committee.
The masters degree also entailed in-service training, where I counselled individuals and families affected by inherited conditions at Groote Schuur and the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. My training exposed me to a range of prenatal, paediatric and adult genetic conditions.
After graduating with a MSc Med degree in Genetic Counselling in 2011, I started my Internship training at Tygerberg Hospital. My main focus was on prenatal genetic counselling and developing a decision-aid for patients, who need to decide whether they want prenatal genetic testing for Down syndrome, or not. After completing my internship in 2013, I registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) as an independent practising genetic counsellor.
As I am also passionate about research and improving the health care services offered to individuals and families, I decided to pursue a doctoral degree. My study focused on the decision-making processes surrounding prenatal testing for Down syndrome and termination of pregnancy. The outcome was a decision-making guide to improve the prenatal genetic counselling services. I was awarded with a PhD in Human Genetics in March 2018.
I started working in private practice in 2015. I did, however, take a break between August 2016 and June 2017, to take up an opportunity to work in England. I was employed by the NHS as a general and cancer genetic counsellor (practicing in the London and Essex areas). I developed a keen interest in particularly the genetics, prevention and management of breast and ovarian cancer, as the majority of my clients were affected by these cancers. My time in England, was a valuable learning experience and I am eternally grateful for this wonderful opportunity. After my contract expired, I was excited to return back to South Africa, as I wanted to incorporate what I had learned into the services offered to the families in my home country.
Currently, I consult full-day Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as certain Friday and Saturday mornings, at my consultation room on the 1st floor of the Panorama Healthcare Centre. I also do occasional Friday afternoon sessions at Cape Gate CancerCare. On the remaining days, I am involved in training students and research projects at the Urology department on Stellenbosch University’s medical campus. I am also extremely privileged to from part of two incredible multi-disciplinary teams: Panorama Centre for Surgical Oncology (http://www.pacso.co.za) and Panorama Perinatology (https://www.perinatal.co.za).