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Dr. Jehannine Austin

Investigator, BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services Research Institute

Primary research areas

  • Genetic counselling 
  • Psychiatric genetics
  • Mental health
  • Mood disorders
  • Pregnancy

About Jehannine C. Austin, Ph.D., F.C.A.H.S., C.G.C.

  • Executive Director, BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services Research Institute
  • Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia
  • Graduate Advisor, UBC Genetic Counselling Training Program
  • Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute

Dr. Jehannine Austin is a longstanding genetic counselling expert. They are currently studying genetic and environmental factors that contribute to maternal and child mental health. The study group is 365 women recruited several years ago, as well as their children. Dr. Austin and their research team took DNA samples of the women and followed up with questionnaires during pregnancy and postpartum. The studies are intended to help us understand factors contributing to postpartum depression and develop new nutritional guidelines to reduce women’s risk. 

In another group of studies, Dr. Austin is looking at how genetic counselling can benefit patients, and how to improve counselling for better patient outcomes. 

“Genetic counselling is directly designed to help patients,” Dr. Austin says. “It’s about helping people understand how genes and environment contribute together in the development of illness.” Data shows that genetic counselling can improve patient outcomes in the areas of empowerment, self-efficacy, medication adherence, and behaviour change, and might improve mental health itself. 

“Psychiatric disorders are complex conditions that – in broad terms – arise as a result of genetic and environmental vulnerability factors acting together. Progress is now being made toward understanding the causes of these conditions more specifically, and there is an urgent need to translate this into benefit for individuals with psychiatric disorders as well as their families.”

Among their other accomplishments, Dr. Austin is the author of the 2011 book How to Talk with Families About Genetics and Psychiatric Illness.

Recent publications

See Dr. Jehannine Austin’s publications on ORCID

Sabatello M, Chen Y, Herrera C, F, Brockhoff E, Austin J, Appelbaum P, S: Teenagers and Precision Psychiatry: A Window of Opportunity. Public Health Genomics 2021;24:14-25. doi: 10.1159/000512475

Emily Morris, Rolan Batallones, Jane Ryan, Caitlin Slomp, Prescilla Carrion, Arianne Albert, Jehannine Austin, Psychiatric genetic counseling for serious mental illness: Impact on psychopathology and psychotropic medication adherence, Psychiatry Research, Volume 296, 2021, 113663, ISSN 0165-1781, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113663

Soda T, Pereira S, Small BJ, Torgerson LN, Muñoz KA, Austin J, Storch EA, Lázaro-Muñoz G. Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists' Perceptions of Utility and Self-rated Knowledge of Genetic Testing Predict Usage for Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2021 Feb 18:S0890-8567(21)00082-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2021.01.022. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33609654

E. Eeltink, M.Z. van der Horst, J.R. Zinkstok, C.M. Aalfs, J.J. Luykx, Polygenic risk scores for genetic counseling in psychiatry: Lessons learned from other fields of medicine, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Volume 121, 2021, Pages 119-127, ISSN 0149-7634, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.11.021

Byrne, E.M., Zhu, Z., Qi, T. et al. Conditional GWAS analysis to identify disorder-specific SNPs for psychiatric disorders. Mol Psychiatry (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-020-0705-9

Wray NR, Lin T, Austin J, et al. From Basic Science to Clinical Application of Polygenic Risk Scores: A Primer. JAMA Psychiatry. 2021;78(1):101–109. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.3049

Barnes, Heather, Morris, Emily, Austin, Jehannine, Trans‐inclusive genetic counseling services: Recommendations from members of the transgender and non‐binary community. Journal of Genetic Counselling, 2019 Nov 11, https://doi.org/10.1002/jgc4.1187

SOURCE: Dr. Jehannine Austin ( )
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