Laura Yeates leads a science-centric life. She’s a cardiac genetic counsellor at the Centenary Institute (a medical research institute based in Sydney). She’s also the Chair of the Australasian Society of Genetic Counsellors and is one year into a PhD which is focused on caring for families affected by sudden cardiac death (SCD) of a young relative.

As a successful woman in STEMM Laura knows how rewarding a career in science can be. “Science has always been a large part of my life and has provided me with so many wonderful opportunities, both at a personal and professional level,” says Laura. “I’ve always loved science–firstly as a child and then right through school as well. I knew I wanted to do a science degree at University and to see where that might take me.

“It was there that I discovered my passion for genetics. Learning about genes, how they’re responsible for running all the processes in our body–and how a faulty or altered gene can lead to specific diseases and disorders. It was all absolutely fascinating to me.”

After graduation, Laura’s interest in genetics led her to successfully completing a Graduate Diploma of Genetic Counselling. A role as a cardiac genetic counsellor within the Centenary Institute’s Molecular Cardiology Program followed shortly thereafter. In 2014, Laura completed her Genetic Counselling Certification with the Human Genetics Society of Australasia. “As a genetic counsellor, my job involves meeting and working with individuals and family members affected by genetic heart disease. This can include supporting family members who have lost loved ones, often involving children and young adults,” says Laura.

In her role, Laura works closely with clinicians and researchers investigating the possible causes of sudden death to be able to provide the genetic counselling to the individuals and families affected. “It’s a critical role that combines the need for both scientific knowledge as well as high level inter-personal and communication skills,” says Laura.

A cardiac genetic counsellor for 14 years, Laura became Chair of the Australasian Society of Genetic Counsellors in 2018. “It is an absolute pleasure to Chair the Australasian Society of Genetic Counsellors, to represent my colleagues and to advocate for them as they go about their work. Although, this volunteer role does take some time, I feel it’s important to put your hand up and give back to the profession. I love being a genetic counsellor and it is an honour to lead this group as we advocate for our members and raise awareness of what we do across the wider community,” she says.

Not content to sit on her laurels, Laura has also committed to further learning and was the recent recipient of a prestigious co-funded NHMRC and National Heart Foundation PhD scholarship. This is supporting her study into improving care for families affected by the sudden cardiac death of a young relative. “The psychological effects of sudden cardiac death on a family is significant and lifelong. My research is all about how we can better provide support measures to help these vulnerable family members over both the short and long term,” she says.

Now one year into her study Laura still works part time as a genetic counsellor at Centenary but is enjoying the challenges of her PhD research too. “As a mature student I’m living proof that it’s never too late to start your PhD!”

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