Posted on September 12, 2017
Senior genetic counselor June Peters, M.S., C.G.C., L.M.F.T., was the third recruit to the newly-created Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) in the summer of 2000. During the subsequent 17 years, she was a critical part of the leadership team that shaped the growth, direction, and productivity of the newest and most clinically-focused branch in DCEG. Her primary responsibility was to counsel and support the patients enrolled in CGB clinical research studies. These individuals and families live with inherited cancer predisposition syndromes, or related diagnoses, that considerably increase their risk of cancer. Ms. Peters’s dedication to patient quality of life and well-being has served as the motivating force behind many of her most significant research contributions.
Ms. Peters’s research explored the dynamic personal, family, and social implications of hereditary cancers and gene-environment interactions focusing on biological mechanisms—such as inflammation and telomere biology—that interact with psychological and social well-being and health. As part of the CGB clinic team, she sought to incorporate integrative medicine, mind-body healing, and mindfulness-based stress reduction to the clinic. Despite her extensive clinical responsibilities, Ms. Peters found time to publish more than 65 peer-reviewed articles in the scientific literature, which comprise a significant portion of her clinical research legacy. In branch meetings and hallway conversations, she served as conscience to the branch staff, always turning the conversation back to the needs of the individual patient, and the over-arching responsibility to improve their quality of life and survival.
Ms. Peters and sociologist collaborator Regina Kenen conceived and introduced the Colored Eco-Genetic Relationship Map (CEGRM), a novel counseling tool that facilitated quickly capturing valuable information regarding multiple emotional, social and psychological domains in these patients’ complex lives, permitting assessment of their interpersonal needs and social exchanges. They used the CEGRM when assessing high-risk families in each of the hereditary in each of the hereditary syndromes CGB was studying, and, in collaborations with investigators at the National Human Genome Research Institute, extending these observations into their social networks.
Within the CGB study of Li-Fraumeni Syndrome patients, Ms. Peters discovered that despite the nearly 100% lifetime risk of developing cancer among those with germline TP53 mutations, these individuals and families have constructed robust social and spiritual support systems and remain remarkably positive in their outlook and thinking.
Over her four-decade career, Ms. Peters has held a wide variety of genetic counseling and academic positions in tertiary care medical centers, universities, private community hospitals, county, state and federal government. She is board-certified by both the American Board of Genetic Counseling and the American Board of Medical Genetics, and is a founding member of both the National Society of Genetic Counselors, and the American College of Medical Genetics. Ms. Peters is also a Marriage and Family Therapist, licensed in California and the District of Columbia. She received an M.S. degree in genetic counseling in 1973 from Rutgers University and an M.S. in psychological counseling in 1986 from California State University at San Bernardino. Her unique style and perspective will be greatly missed by CGB and DCEG staff, and by the national and international genetic counseling communities.