Bronson D. Riley, MS, CGC® serves as a genetic counselor and Director of Clinical Research at Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center. He is also a member of the ABGC Board of Directors.
Why did you choose to become a genetic counselor?
Prior to becoming a genetic counselor, I was a research coordinator for Henry Lynch, MD at Creighton University’s Hereditary Cancer Institute. I really enjoyed building relationships with families as they progressed through the program and was able to see how remarkable genetic testing could be for patient care.
Due to my previous experience at the Hereditary Cancer Institute, I always wanted to pursue cancer genetics.
What is the most rewarding part of being a genetic counselor?
The opportunity to support families as they go through a potentially challenging time of their lives.
What is the most challenging part of being a genetic counselor?
For me, the most challenging part of being a genetic counselor is that I am not recognized by CMS as a provider nor am I able to bill all insurance plans for my clinical services. Unfortunately, many health care systems often equate a provider’s value with the amount of revenue they generate. Being a cost-center can limit opportunities for new hires and program development. I’m hoping with the passage of HR3235 and the admirable efforts of our GC colleagues working on outcomes-based research this challenge will go away very soon.
As Director of Clinical Research at SNCC, what does an average day look like?
I oversee clinical trial selection, implementation, and day-to-day operations for our research department where we implement NCI/industry sponsored interventional studies for our patients. I mostly put out fires in between GC consults. The success of our department really goes to my staff. They are amazing.
What are some of the challenges that you face as Director of Clinical Research? Do you have someone who is your champion at SNCC?
Research compliance is a big deal. Similar to keeping up with the ever-changing medical genetics literature, the federal regulations that govern clinical research are constantly being updated in response to the changing environment. On top of that, research budgets are shrinking. Like everybody else, it seems like we are having to do more with less resources. To assist with all of this, we put together an advisory board of physician partners that meets quarterly to discuss any roadblocks and to act as our champions for anything new that gets implemented.
Is working in cancer research a good fit for genetic counselors?
Absolutely. Cancer is a genetic disease. A genetic counselor’s knowledge of molecular genetics, research, and ethics translates nicely into clinical trial work because most of the oncology research being done right now are on targeted therapies.
What is one of the biggest challenges to implementing a quality oncology clinical trial?
Enrollment is the biggest challenge. As oncology research focuses more and more on targeted therapies the inclusion/exclusion criteria gets more challenging for potential patients. In response, we are moving more toward the Just-In-Time or molecular matching enrollment models.
Can you share with us details about your favorite/most interesting clinical trial to date?
I have too many to share and I probably can’t due to the CDA’s I have signed. However, what I find exciting is that, through our clinical research program, our patients get early access to many of the exciting cancer drugs or interventions that are clinically available now (for example: immunotherapies or radionucleotide therapies) without having to travel hundreds of miles to large academic centers. They can get cutting-edge care close to home where they want to be.
ABGC Spotlight is a monthly series that features Diplomates, healthcare professionals and students sharing their unique experiences with genetic counseling.