Course Descriptions

(Click on a course name to see the description)

Fall – 1st year

Genetic Counseling I: Foundations of Genetic Counseling (Joines / 3 credits)

This course will provide an introduction to core genetic counseling skills including constructing a pedigree, contracting, and various techniques surrounding communication, delivery of bad news, and decision facilitation. Emphasis will be placed upon risk assessment, risk calculation and the fundamentals of case management. This course will provide the framework prior to the genetic counseling clinical rotation. Information discussed in class will be reinforced by bimonthly role play exercises with members of the genetic counseling program faculty.

Principles and Methods of Epidemiology (PHCO 502 / 3 credits)

This course is an introduction to the principles of epidemiology as generally used in human health research and public health disease prevention and health promotion.

Human Genetics (Brzustowicz and Barr / 3 credits)

This is a foundational graduate course in human genetics, covering classical and non-classical patterns of inheritance, human genome structure and evolution, normal and abnormal processes of gene expression, molecular genetic pathology, laboratory methods for genetic analysis, and research approaches to the study of human genetic disease using humans and model organisms.

Clinical Cancer Genetic Counseling (Vig and Joines / 2 credits)

This course is designed to introduce the principles and practice of genetic counseling for hereditary cancer syndromes. The course will cover topics such as cancer epidemiology and biology, detailed characteristics of common and rare hereditary cancer syndromes (including information on diagnosis and risk management options for various types of cancer), genetic risk assessment, testing strategies, and the psychosocial and ethical aspects of genetic counseling for hereditary cancer syndromes.

Spring – 2nd year

Genetic Counseling II: Reproductive Genetic Counseling (Ashkindaze / 3 credits)

This course focuses on issues surrounding genetic counseling in the reproductive setting. Topics covered will include artificial reproductive technologies (ART), prenatal screening and diagnostic testing, fetal ultrasound assessment, fetal interventions/therapy, teratogen counseling, basic aspects of common pregnancy complications, evaluation of miscarriages and stillbirths, perinatal bereavement and ethical and legal considerations in prenatal diagnosis. This course will provide the framework prior to the genetic counseling clinical rotation and builds upon concepts taught in Foundations of Genetic Counseling I. Information discussed in class will be reinforced by weekly case presentations.

Research Methods for Genetic Counseling (Heiman 2 credits)

The objective of this course is to help students gain competence in initiating and conducting an empirical research study. The course is designed to guide genetic counseling students in developing their topic and research question for their independent research thesis. Topics include the selection and framing of a research question, building hypotheses, developing measurements, designing appropriate methods (such as experimentation, survey, field work, and using available data), drafting a research proposal, submitting an institutional review board (IRB) protocol, conducting a literature review, and creation of a thorough, clear, well-organized research report. Assessment of outcome will be based on completing CIDI human subjects training, formulating thesis project, identifying data source for project, and submission of a written research proposal.

Medical Genetics I (Brooks & Botti / 3 credits)

This course introduces medical cytogenetics, Mendelian and non-Mendelian inheritance and laboratory technologies relevant to the practice of genetic counseling. It focuses on cytogenetics including chromosome pathology such as aneuploidy, structural rearrangements and copy number variants. It introduces students to genetic conditions resulting from aneuploidy, Mendelian and non-Mendelian inheritance. It introduces the concepts of precision medicine, pharmacogenomics. It begins the introduction to dysmorphology and system based genetics as well as multifactorial genetics. Students will consider ethical and psychosocial issues surrounding genetics and clinical application of genetic testing and integrate the knowledge gained to propose diagnostic strategies for cytogenetic conditions and provide risk assessment.

Counseling Techniques for Genetic Counselors (GSAPP faculty/ 2 credits)

This course will focus on instruction, delivery, and practice of psychosocial assessment and counseling skills often employed during a genetic counseling session. In addition to effectively communicating genetic information, genetic counselors should also be familiar and proficient with employing basic counseling skills including but not limited to facilitating difficult decisions, crisis intervention and management. Through this course, the genetic counseling students will be introduced to a variety of psychological techniques and philosophies. Psychosocial aspects of genetic disease will also be studied (for example, guilt, shame). Content addressed in lecture format may be reinforced through structured role play.


Loss Across the Lifespan (McCoyd / 3 credits)

Loss is a universal human experience, asserts Bertha Simos, yet we have a tendency to only acknowledge losses due to death as worthy of therapeutic attention. This course starts with a unique premise: all of life is about loss and therefore it is imperative for social workers to be skilled at identifying less recognizable losses as well as more common ones. The course will start with an overview of loss as a normal and necessary part of life and growth. It will provide the foundations of classical grief theory as well as its evolution through more recent understandings about continuing bonds, meaning making and the hazards of phase theories of grief. While death and dying at different stages in the lifespan will be addressed, each life stage will also be explored for the normative losses that occur at that stage.

Fall – 2nd year

Genetic Counseling III: Current and Advanced Topics (Joines / 2 credits)

This course will focus on advanced areas of genetic counseling including issues surrounding and impact of cutting edge genetic technologies. A section of the course will also be dedicated to further exploration of cultural and ethical issues in genetic counseling. Examination of current topics will be addressed through lectures, discussion of journal articles, and student presentations.

Medical Genetics II (Brooks & Botti / 3 credits)

Using a systems-based approach this course expands on content and concepts learned in Medical Genetics I. It builds a clinical knowledge base, including but not limited to, the etiology, presentation and natural history of genetic diseases. It will continue to discuss dysmorphology assessment, diagnosis, treatment/management, and prognosis of selected genetic conditions and birth defects streaming from an understanding of normal versus abnormal embryological development. The focus will be on biochemical genetics to allow students to learn about the diagnosis, treatment, management and prognosis of selected inborn errors of metabolism and newborn screening. Knowledge surrounding biochemical genetics, neurologic and neuropsychiatric will be enhanced and students will integrate the knowledge gained to provide risk assessment, propose diagnostic strategies, and provide genetic counseling for these conditions. Students will build upon previous knowledge gained to consider ethical and psychosocial issues surrounding genetics, genetic testing and integrate the knowledge gained to provide risk assessment and propose diagnostic strategies for these conditions.

Counseling Techniques for Genetic Counselors II (GSAPP faculty/ 2 credits)

 This course will focus on instruction, delivery, and practice of psychosocial assessment and counseling skills often employed during a genetic counseling session. Considerable course time will be spent processing and analyzing cases from clinical rotations. Students will be expected to critique and process their clinical experiences to enrich course material. Counseling concepts will also be practiced and reinforced through role play exercises.

Spring – 2nd year

Genetic Counseling IV: Genetic Counseling in the 21st Century (Joines / 3 credits)

This course will focus on the professional issues surrounding the genetic counseling profession. Students will participate in a number of activities that will assist with securing a job upon graduation, including development of CV and information on successful interviewing. Other professional issues including billing and state licensure will be addressed by content experts. A key component of this course will include a placement with a genetic counselor working in a non-clinical setting in an effort to expose the student to a variety of job opportunities. The class will include several forums, providing the students the opportunity to present to and process with one another their work placements.