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7 Quick Questions With Genetic Counselor Matthew Thomas

Get to know your provider with 7 quick questions

A genetic counselor, Matthew Thomas, ScM, GC, helps families get all the information about their risk for genetic conditions and breaks down the information so it's easy to understand.

Meet a Charlottesville-Based Heart Genetic Counselor

We asked Thomas our 7 quick questions.

1. What has most inspired and shaped your approach to patient care?

Matthew Thomas, ScM, GC

I'm most inspired by the patients I've seen, the resilience that they've shown. I've seen people who have had very serious diagnoses and have faced procedure after procedure to keep them healthy and alive, and yet they will come see me with their priority of, "Why did this happen to me? How can I use this to try to help future generations and my family and others?"

There are people that even if they have no biological relatives who are available, will consider testing in the hopes that it could help somebody else out there with the same diagnosis. So I'm very humbled by how resilient and how giving people are, even when they're facing really difficult circumstances.

2. What's your favorite part of your job?

I'm most energized when I get to spend time talking with people, helping them learn and understand what their condition is, what it means for them, what it means for their family. Being able to share normal results when there's a child or children at risk is a very rewarding part of my job.

But I think that even when I'm outside of the clinic and I'm in the workroom, so when we're not seeing patients, often the doctors, the genetic counselors, the nurses are sitting together and preparing for the next patient and talking about the patients that we just saw and sort of the energy that we have in that room and talking about what we can do best for that patient. What do they have? How do we help them? What do they need? I really, really enjoy that part of the job.

Working on an island unto myself would be really challenging long term. But being around other people who are incredibly smart and skilled in ways that I just don't have, and being able to work with them because they're passionate about taking great care of patients, that's a favorite part of my job, too.

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3. How do you approach working with families?

There are a lot of emotional and psychological challenges that come with knowing you're at risk for a problem or worry you could pass it on to a child. We like to focus on the entire person. We want to take care of their health, but also make sure they feel comfortable and supported. That they have the resources they feel they need to be confident in the decisions they're making.

4. What's your biggest fear when you're a patient?

I think uncertainty. Not knowing what's wrong. If you don't know what's wrong, then you don't know what you can potentially do to fix it. Or even if you can't fix it, you don't even understand why it's happening. Not understanding what's wrong, not knowing what to do about it, not knowing why it happened, I'd say that's my personal biggest fear.

5. What do you do for stress relief?

I like to go to the gym. I exercise as often as I feel like I can or as I'm able.

I spend time with my wife. We like to go out to dinner and even just hang out on the couch and watch whatever streaming service is available with our dog. I hang out with friends and family, and try to get out for some vacations now and again, do some traveling.

6. Dogs or cats?

We have both. I appreciate cats because they're very low maintenance, but they definitely are not as loyal. So our cats are able to be very self-sufficient and when we go on vacation, we have less worries about them. But we're dog people; I'm a dog person, yeah.

7. What's the last movie or show you saw? Thumbs up or down?

The Last of Us on HBO. It's excellent. Two thumbs up.

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