Department of Human Genetics

Counseling Related Courses

HGC 705: Introduction to Genetic Counseling

This course introduces students to the historical aspects and goals of the genetic counseling profession. The basic principles and tools of genetic counseling are discussed and illustrated, including collecting family history and constructing a pedigree, components of the genetic counseling interaction, and counseling contexts/situations. Practice-based competencies, the scope of practice, NSGC position statements and code of ethics, are explored. 

Fall I – 3 credits

HGC 720: Genetic Counseling Theory and Practice I

This course offers an introduction to the theory, research, and practice of person-centered, experiential, and existential therapy. Through experiential exercises, students learn skills that build a therapeutic relationship (e.g., genuineness, empathic understanding, and caring) and intervention skills to help clients express and explore the meanings of their experience. This course includes exercises designed to develop competency in a relationship and basic counseling skills. Topics specific to genetic counseling are addressed including communicating risk and uncertainty, facilitated decision-making, non-directiveness, and self-disclosure. 

Fall I – 3 credits

HGC 750 Genetic Counseling Theory and Practice II

This course continues the exploration of psychosocial issues relevant to genetic counseling as initiated in Genetic Counseling Theory and Practice I.  Topics covered include: individual psychosocial development, the impact of chronic illness and disability, grief and bereavement, crises intervention, care for the caregiver, multi-cultural sensitivity and competency, and family communication of genetic risk.  Students experience the impact on individuals and families of living with a genetic condition or serious/chronic illness through speaker panels, visits to various care facilities, and spending time with a family who has a child with Down syndrome. 

Spring I – 3 credits

HGC 810 Genetic Counseling Theory and Practice III

This course focuses on advanced concepts encountered in the practice of genetic counseling including teaching principles and methodologies, health literacy, counseling individuals with special challenges, interacting with the media, and clinical supervision. Professional growth, certification and licensure, and preparing for the job market are addressed. Students are introduced to issues of billing and reimbursement, genetic service delivery models, telemedicine and the business/marketing aspects of providing genetic services. Role-play and literature-based discussions are utilized to enforce the concepts covered. 

Fall II – 2 credits

HGC 730a-d Genetic Counseling Seminar I-IV

This series of four genetic counseling seminars provide a forum for 1st and 2nd-year students to learn from each other through sharing, discussion, and presentation of cases experienced through observations and clinical rotations. 

Students also explore topics in genetics and genomics through journal club, and review of web-based genetic news items, blogs, and books written for the lay population.

In year 1, the 1st year students also focus on research methodology and grant-writing skills.  In year 2, the 2nd year students focus on manuscript development and preparation for the ABGC boards. 

Fall I/II, Spring I/II – 1 credit each

Additional Courses

HGC 707: Intro to Epidemiology and Biostatistics (Required)

This course focuses on basic concepts of descriptive, analytic, and experimental epidemiology, and biostatistics. Topics covered include overview of study designs, measures of disease frequency, variables and distributions; statistical approaches to the analysis of epidemiological data; and sources of bias in epidemiological studies. The application of these principles to genetics-related topics is illustrated through a review of relevant publications.  

Fall I  2 credits

PAE 7103: Biomedical Ethics

Examination of ethical rules, principles, and theories as they relate to health care delivery issues using a case presentation and discussion format.  Additional sessions related to the ethics of genetics research and clinical practice will be held for genetic counseling students.

Fall II  3 credits

Clinical and Research

HGC 735a-i: Clinical Practicum

Students complete a sequence of clinical rotations throughout their program experience. The rotations take place under the supervision of board-certified genetic counselors and/or clinical/medical geneticists. Students begin in Fall I with learning fundamentals of clinical counseling, observations of genetic counseling sessions conducted by experienced counselors, in addition, to role-play and simulation activities. The first clinical rotation begins Spring I. Students complete 5, 8-week core rotations in prenatal, cancer, and general genetics (two rotations in 2 of the 3 areas). In addition, each student completes 4-5 four-week rotations in different specialty clinics and non-traditional settings.  Students take increasing responsibility for the preparation and conduction of the genetic counseling sessions as they progress through the program. A minimum of 50 clinical cases in core rotations is required where the students participate in a significant portion of the case management and counseling. 

Fall I - 2 credits (Clinic Prep), Spring I - 4 credits, Summer 7 credits, Fall II - 6 credits, Spring II - 6 credits

During the focus internship, students develop a research project in collaboration with a mentor and participate in a variety of activities in their mentor's specialty area. Focus internships are available across several clinical specialties as well as public health and education. Some projects have focused on specific conditions, including but not limited to, Fragile X syndrome, galactosemia, differences of sex development, hearing loss, lysosomal storage disorders, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington's disease, seizure disorders, and muscular dystrophies.

Student placement with a particular focus project and mentor occurs through a matching process conducted at the beginning of the first semester. Students spend an average of five hours per week on Focus Internship activities during both Fall and Spring semesters as well as the equivalent of four full-time weeks during the summer between their 1st and 2nd year. In addition to participating in activities and meetings, the Focus Internship provides the basis for the student’s Capstone Project which includes:

  • Project design and execution, review/collection and analysis of data. 

  • Creation of an abstract for a professional meeting. 

  • Creation of a poster to be presented at the Dr. Cecelia Bellcross GCTP Poster Walk.

  • Completion of a first-author publishable manuscript based on their project. 

Fall I, II/Spring I, II – 1 credit each; Summer – 4 credits

HGC 815: Genetic Counseling Research

Independent study. Students complete data collection and analysis and develop a draft and final manuscripts, meeting abstracts, and presentations based on their Focus Internship Capstone Project. 

Fall II – 1 credit; Spring II  2 credits