The Emory School of Medicine Department of Human Genetics will launch a new Master’s degree program in the field of genetic counseling starting next summer, in which students will learn to interpret family and medical histories to assess the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence during reproduction.
The new program will last for 22.5 months and will begin with a six-week summer introductory semester, followed by five 16-week semesters of training. According to the University’s Department of Human Genetics website, the curriculum will combine coursework with research opportunities and varied clinical experiences as well as a focus internship in either public health genetics, expanded clinical practice, clinical genetics research or laboratory genetic counseling.
Cecilia Bellcross, director of the genetic counseling program, noted that the program will mark the first Master’s Degree in genetic counseling in Georgia and that there are currently only three such programs offered in the Southeast.
“There’s a shortage of genetic counselors to help the health care community,” she said. “This seemed like a great opportunity...It will help provide needed genetic counselors in Atlanta and Georgia. It will provide a professional workforce able to educate health care providers and help patients in the health care community.”
The program will offer 10 slots for students, which, according to Bellcross, is typical for genetic counseling programs in the United States.
Students will participate in eight independent clinical rotations — which will take place at multiple settings in clinics, hospitals and facilities throughout Atlanta — to introduce students to the diverse range of genetic counseling-related careers as well as to aid students in forming their own counseling style, the program’s website explains.
The first year of the program will include eight weeks of clinical observations, role-play activities and stimulations with standardized patients. Clinical placements begin in the second half of the fall semester.
In the second year of the program, students will continue with clinical training as well as explore “less traditional counseling roles and settings,” according to the website, which can include telemedicine, outreach clinics, and laboratory counseling, among others.
Furthermore, the program requires students to fulfill several course requirements, including Genetics of Common Diseases, Genetic Counseling Theory and Practice and Human Genome Epidemiology.
“Our coursework is unique because we are really trying to capture genomic medicine advances,” Bellcross said. “There’s more ‘cutting-edge’ genetics genomics that are part of the training program.”
Bellcross added that the program will collaborate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in providing students with a public health component.
In addition to coursework and clinical training, students will participate in a focus internship throughout the program’s duration, in which they will work with a mentor in public health genetics, clinical genetics research, clinical genetics laboratory counseling and practice, or expanded clinical practice and service delivery.
The Department of Human Genetics website states that these focus internships will serve as a foundation for a required capstone project designed to advance skills in research, grant writing and publication.
The admissions process, now open to those interested, includes the submission of an application as well as an in-person interview. The deadline for admission is Dec. 15, 2011.
— Contact Jordan Friedman.