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7 Quick Questions: Genetic Counselor Matthew J. Thomas

Ever wonder what your doctor or health provider does outside the exam room? Our 7 Quick Questions series gives you a personal glimpse into the people of UVA.

Matthew J. Thomas ScM, GCG is a genetic counselor at UVA Children’s Hospital.genetic counselor Matthew Thomas

What did you want to be when you were little?

I emailed my mom this question because I couldn’t remember what I wanted to be when I was very young. Here was her response:

“When you were 3 you said ‘I be Michael Jackson when I be big.’

“When 4, you said ‘I’m going to be a gas man with a long truck.’

“Later that year you wanted to be a policeman and put people in jail.

“At 6 you said you wanted to be an artist. You really liked to draw, color, etc.

“You did like to look at books about safety, first aid, accidents, emergency vehicles, etc. as a young child. Maybe that helped determine you being in a health career!”

What’s your favorite place to travel?

By car: Baltimore. I lived in Baltimore for two years in grad school. My wife and I fell in love with the town, and we go back once a year to visit our favorite spots.

By plane: Anywhere in Europe. I went to Europe for the first time in my life last year, and I’m itching to go back. We managed to visit two countries (France and Italy) but hope to visit many more in the years to come.

What’s one thing you always have in your fridge?

Sriracha sauce

What’s the unhealthiest thing you eat?

I probably consume my body weight in peanut butter on a monthly basis.

What’s the most exciting thing/research happening in your field right now?

Genome sequencing. We now have the ability to test a small sample of a person’s blood for almost every single gene he or she has to find the cause of complex medical problems and/or cognitive disabilities. For example, we can perform genome sequencing to explain why a child was born with a heart defect, epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder. Not only do families appreciate finally knowing the cause of their child’s concerns, we occasionally find answers that can improve that child’s medical care.

This Pulitzer Prize winning article details this incredible technology and how it helped save one little boy’s life.

Why genetic counseling?

Genetic counseling is a perfect blend of what I love: Working directly with patients and their families to find answers that improve their health and quality of life, while staying on the cutting edge of genetics knowledge and research.

Who’s your inspiration/hero?

My patients. I am constantly in awe of the resilience my patients and their families demonstrate on a daily basis. Whether they’re coping with the latest health setback, arranging a fundraiser for the support group they founded or helping me battle it out with an insurance company, I am inspired by them to do the best I can every single day.

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