At the University of Texas, we pride ourselves on the breadth and depth of our students’ exposures in the genetic counseling arena. Patients come to the Texas Medical Center from all over the world for treatment; therefore, the cases seen represent a wide variety of different genetic conditions and the people seen identify with various cultural, religious, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Houston itself is one of the most diverse cities in the nation, with a large number of residents who identify as Mexican, Vietnamese, Chinese, Nigerian, Honduran, Columbian, Indian, Pakistani and Egyptian.
Students average over 150 countable cases at the UTGCP. Therefore, students are well prepared in all medical and psychosocial aspects of genetic counseling upon graduation.
Students begin seeing patients in January of the first year, with the onset of the Introductory Rotations. During the spring semester, they rotate for 6 weeks each through the prenatal, cancer, and medical genetics blocks. Students are seeing patients 2 days per week while also continuing with their didactic course work.
The summer rotation is a five week, full time rotation that may occur either in Houston or away from the city. Students often rotate near friends, family, or significant others. Some students visit a new part of the United States, and a few elect to visit another country. For students interested in increasing their Spanish proficiency, a summer Spanish genetic counseling immersion is
available. Since students receive a wealth of cases while on the traditional Introductory and Advanced Rotations, the summer is a time to explore unique offerings.
The summer experience also involves a one-week laboratory rotation at the Baylor College of Medicine Medical Genetics Laboratory in Houston. This provides excellent insight into laboratory genetic counseling and genetic testing analysis.
During the second year, students rotate back through prenatal, cancer, and medical genetics for 6 weeks each. With logistics under their belt, students are able to tackle more advanced indications and advanced psychosocial skills. This second trip through the major venues of genetic counseling is relatively unique to the UTGCP, and something that is highly valued by our students. They gain confidence and independence. The close proximity of the various clinics to the UTGCP and large number of genetics professionals makes this possible.
Students also receive the opportunity to have a 6 week elective rotations in an area of
interest. They may work with a genetic counselor from industry or research, or choose to explore another part of the healthcare team, such as our palliative care or infertility groups or gain additional exposure in their chosen area of specialty. In addition, all students have a short industry elective and a laboratory experience at UT MD Anderson School of Health Professions.
More information on the core rotation blocks:
Rotations are broken into three blocks: Prenatal, Cancer, and Medical Genetics. All UTGCP students rotate through the same centers but at different points in their training. There are over 85 certified genetic counselors in Houston that lend their expertise to our program.
Prenatal: Students become proficient in not only routine indications such as advanced maternal age, abnormal serum screening, and noninvasive prenatal testing, but also in more advanced referrals for abnormal ultrasound findings and family histories. The UT Fetal Center provides an opportunity to participate in multidisciplinary care and to see fetal surgery for spina bifida. The Texas TIPS teratogen call center also provides a unique counseling experience during this block.
Cancer: The majority of the cancer block is spent at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, which has unmatched resources and expertise. Students counsel patients at risk for hereditary cancer syndromes including hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome, hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, familial adenomatous polypsis, and rarer syndromes such as Li-Fraumeni, Cowden, Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia and von Hippel -Lindau. Students also spend time with cancer genetic counselors in the community setting to round out their cancer genetics experience.
Medical Genetics: In addition to developing fundamental genetic counseling skills, this rotation focuses on the development of clinical assessment and diagnostic skills, including performing measurements and limited physical exams, conducting patient interviews, formulating genetic diagnoses and identifying psychosocial issues related to having a child with genetic and non-genetic birth defects. Students are active members of the genetics team, identifying diagnostic and treatment resources for different genetic disorders and providing counseling to families regarding testing or treatment modalities in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Experiences at the Shriners Hospital for Children and other multidisciplinary clinics afford students comprehensive exposure to many genetic disorders.
The rotation experience culminates with an Oral Comprehensive Exam in which students demonstrate their knowledge and communication skills before an exam committee. Students who demonstrate competency are ready to function as entry-level genetic counselors upon graduation.