Juliet Yuen Wai-Mun Hsia, a pioneer in the field of genetics counseling, died Saturday in Honolulu after battling cancer. She was 64.
Juliet Yuen Wai-Mun Hsia,
pioneer in genetics
counseling, dies at 64
By Christine Donnelly
Hsia, known professionally by her maiden name of Yuen, was praised for developing genetics counseling in Hawaii in the late 1970s and for her strong patient advocacy.
"She was one of the best teachers I ever had. She could take something very scientific and make it easy for anyone to understand. She also just had a way of making everyone part of her own family," said Janet Brumblay, once a student of Hsia's at the University of Hawaii who is now an advanced practice genetics nurse at the Queen's Medical Center.
Genetics counselors help people who have birth defects, genetic disorders or high risk of inherited conditions. They explain in simple terms the complicated diagnoses made by medical geneticists, as well as treatment options.
Hsia worked closely with her husband, medical geneticist Dr. Y.E. "Ted" Hsia, at Kapiolani Medical Center and the University of Hawaii. They moved to Hawaii from Malaysia in 1977.
Ted Hsia said his wife provided "the human touch" to his highly technical medical research and practice and was for many years the only genetics counselor in the state. Among her work was helping to provide testing for inherited anemias common in Hawaii's Chinese, Filipino and Laotian populations, and counseling an extended family at high risk for the rare genetic disorder Von Hippel- Lindau Disease.
Study of that family has led to a better understanding of the disorder, as well as of several types of cancer it causes, he said.
Juliet Hsia, who retired in 1996, was a past officer of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, had published papers in national and international journals and lectured in several countries.
She also was active at Calvary-by-the-Sea Lutheran Church, serving as a past president of the Council of Deacons. She championed the role of women and minorities as a national and international delegate to the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Besides her husband, she is survived by five sons: Martin, Calvin, Franklin, Duncan and Gordon; brothers Daniel, Herman and Kingsley Yuen; sister Helen Menezes, and seven grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held Sunday at 4 p.m. at Calvary-by-the-Sea Lutheran Church. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Ted and Juliet Hsia Foundation or any other charity.