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Genetic Counseling Program

Founded in 1989, The University of Texas Genetic Counseling Program (UTGCP) offers a challenging and unique program in genetic counseling administered through the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Houston Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in association with the Division of Medical Genetics in the Department of Pediatrics at the McGovern Medical School.

Genetic Counseling Program Overview

Genetic Counseling students in a meeting

PROVIDING EXCELLENCE IN GENETIC COUNSELING EDUCATION FOR OVER 30 YEARS

  

The UTGCP is a two-year specialized Master of Science training program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (current full accreditation 2022-2030) whose vision is to be the leader in the education of genetic counseling students who support and advance genetics in healthcare. The UTGCP excels in the training of versatile genetic counselors by facilitating competency-based learning, supporting personalized growth and immersing students in the depth and breadth of genetic counseling practice.  The first time board pass rate over the previous 3 years is 90%. As of 2020, about 5,000 certified genetic counselors work in the U.S., according to the National Society of Genetic Counselors; an increase of 75% since 2006, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field will grow 29% by 2024. To learn more about this exciting career, visit www.nsgc.org

Testimonials

“I would attend the UTGCP again because the quality of education you receive, especially compared to the cost, is unmatched. Even four years out, the program still supports me by filling out licensure-related documents, and by helping me expand my professional network. In fact, I credit the UTGCP for the connections that landed my current GC role. The program faculty are constantly changing and adapting to student and alumni needs. I have always been deeply impressed at how quickly they respond to feedback in order to continuously improve the program. You’re in good hands here!”  - Ellen Jarret, MS, CGC, UTGCP Class of 2017

“What I enjoyed most about the UTGCP was the ability to complete my core rotations AND focus on my area of interest, which happened to be outside of those core rotations (lab). The program supported me in my endeavors to get as much lab experience as possible, which helped my land my dream job. I would recommend the program to others because the program allows for well-rounded GC training with the ability to tailor your experiences to meet your personal interests.” - Emily Thoreson, MS, CGC, UTGCP Class of 2019

“The UTGCP Cancer Rotation at MD Anderson Cancer Center well prepared me to be a cancer counselor because of the high quality of unique, interesting cases I was able to participate in. Seeing patients who travel to MDA from all over the world allows students to practice counseling complex cancer indications so they feel confident to take charge as independent GCs after graduation. I would recommend this program to others who are looking for a high quality, balanced psychosocial training program to learn the skills to best be able to support their future patients.”  -Sarah Burke, MS, CGC, UTGCP Class of 2020

Genetic Counseling celebration

Genetic Counseling Training Program

  • Curriculum

    Academic Course Work

    Genetic counseling students take didactic classes in the areas of human genetics, prenatal genetics, cancer genetics, statistics and research methodology, developmental biology, and ethics.  There are also several courses that focus on the psychosocial aspects of genetic counseling, making for a well balanced curriculum. The majority of course work is completed in the first year. Clinical rotations begin in the spring of the first year and become the main focus of the second year.  Thesis research also features prominently in the second year of study. Specific course information can be found at the bottom of this page.

    UT Genetic Counseling Program Course Curriculum

    Course Name 

    Course Number 

    Credits 

    FALL SEMESTER FIRST YEAR (12 hours) 

    Topics in Medical Genetics I

    GS11 1622 

    2 

    Introduction to Genetic Counseling 

    GS11 1132 

    2 

    Embryology

    GS11 1011? 

    1 

    Prenatal Genetic Counseling 

    GS11 1172 

    2 

    Psychosocial Issues in Genetic Counseling

    GS11 1082 

    2 

    Biomedical Ethics for the Genetic Counselor 

    GS21 1181 

    1 

    Cancer Genetic Counseling 

    GS11 1012 

    2 

    SPRING SEMESTER FIRST YEAR (9 hours) 

    Introductory Clinical Rotation

    GS11 1173? 

    3 

    Psychosocial Issues in Genetic Counseling II 

    GS11 1182 

    2 

    Approaches to Genetic Counseling Research I 

    GS11 1142 

    2 

    Topics in Medical Genetics II

    GS11 1642 

    2 

    SUMMER SEMESTER FIRST YEAR (6 hours) 

    Advanced Clinical Rotation

    GS11 1174 

    4 

    Research in Biomedical Science

    GS00 1520 

    2 

    FALL SEMESTER SECOND YEAR (9 hours) 

    Advanced Clinical Rotation

    GS11 1174 

    4 

    Masters Thesis Research (if approved for candidacy) 

    GS00 1910 

    2 

    Contemporary Issues in Genetic Counseling 

    GS11 1031 

    1 

    Approaches to Genetic Counseling Research II 

    GS11 1152 

    2 

    SPRING SEMESTER SECOND YEAR (9 hours) 

    Advanced Clinical Rotation

    GS11 1174 

    4 

    Masters Thesis Research

    GS00 1910 

    3 

    Psychosocial Genetic Counseling (Practicum) 

    GS11 1021 

    1 

    Contemporary Issues in Genetic Counseling II 

    GS11 1031 

    1 

    Specific course information may be found on the training progression tab

  • Program Timeline

    This timeline includes responsibilities for coursework, clinical rotations, thesis, and additional ancillary events. This timeline may vary slightly from student to student. The majority of coursework is completed in the first year. Clinical rotations begin in the spring of the first year, and become the main focus of the second year. Thesis research also features prominently in the second year of study.

    During the first Fall Semester, students primarily take didactic courses including Intro to Genetic Counseling, Psychosocial Issues in Genetic Counseling I, Topics in Medical Genetics I, Prenatal Genetic Counseling, Cancer Genetic Counseling, Embryology, and Biomedical Ethics for the Genetic Counselor. Students are observing genetic counseling sessions on several occasions across all specialties and beginning to consider their thesis research topic. In the Spring, students take didactic courses including Topics in Medical Genetics II, Psychosocial Issues in Genetic Counseling II, and Approaches to Research I. Students begin their Introductory rotations, comprising of 6 weeks each in medical genetics, prenatal, and cancer specialties, for approximately 2 days/week.

    They choose their thesis topic, committee, thesis Chair, aims, and submit their project for approval from the Academic Standards Committee. In the Summer, students are not in the classroom, but participate in a 2-week long laboratory rotation, and a 5-week rotation of their choosing for which they are in clinic 5 days/week. They submit their research projects to the IRB and await approval.

    In the Fall of their second year, students take several courses including Approaches to Research II and Contemporary Issues in Genetic Counseling I. They begin their Advanced rotations, again rotating through the three main specialties (medical genetics, prenatal, cancer), for 6 weeks each, for approximately 3 days/week. They also begin to collect data for their thesis project and begin data analysis. In their final semester, students take Contemporary Issues in Genetic Counseling II and Psychosocial Practicum, participate in a 6-week supplementary rotation of their choosing, and finish analysis of their thesis data, write their manuscript, defend their thesis, and submit for publication. 

  • Clinical Rotations

    At the UTGCP, 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 have roots all over the world, including Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Vietnam, China, Korea, Nigeria, Columbia, India, and Pakistan. Students average over 200 countable cases at the UTGCP, and are therefore well prepared in all medical and psychosocial aspects of genetic counseling upon graduation.

    ROTATION FORMAT

    Introductory Rotations:  Students begin seeing patients in January of the first year. 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.

    Summer Rotation:  This five-week, full-time rotation may occur either in Houston or away from the city to be 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 rotation 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.

    Advanced Rotations:  During the second year, students rotate again through prenatal, cancer, and medical genetics for 6 weeks each. With logistics under their belt, students are able to tackle more advanced psychosocial skills and indications. 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. The students gain confidence and independence while expanding their psychosocial repertoire.

    Supplemental Rotation:  In the spring of the second year, students have two 3 week experiences that may be used to supplement their training in an area of interest via synchronous and asynchronous options, such as neurogenetics, cardiogenetics, business of healthcare, extended industry, infertility, fetal center, specialty cancer, or research.

    Advanced Rotation Exam and Oral Comprehensive Exam:  The rotation experience culminates with an Advanced Rotation Exam towards the conclusion of Advanced Rotations. This allows students to identify any remaining skills to focus on during their Supplemental Rotation.  After supplemental rotation, there is an Oral Comprehensive Exam in which students demonstrate their clinic readiness before an exam committee. Students who demonstrate competency are ready to function as entry-level genetic counselors upon graduation.

    ROTATION SITES

    Prenatal:  Affiliated institutions include the UTHealth Maternal Fetal Medicine clinics at various UT Physicians clinics, Memorial Hermann Hospital System locations, and LBJ Hospital, as well as The Fetal Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, and the Texas TIPS Teratogen Call Center. 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.

    Cancer:  Affiliated institutions include UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, UT Physicians Cancer Center, UT Southwestern Simmons Cancer Center, and UTMB Cancer Center. 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.

    Medical Genetics: Specialty clinics within the UT Physicians, Memorial Hermann Hospital, Shiners Hospital for Children, and LBJ Hospital system include Craniofacial Clinic, Gulf States Hemophilia and Thrombophilia Clinic, Huntington Disease Clinic, Lysosomal/Glycogen Storage Disease Clinic, Mitochondrial Disease Clinic, Neurogenetics Clinic, Osteogenesis Imperfecta Clinic, Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm Clinic, and Tuberous Sclerosis Complex Clinic. Students see general genetics patients and metabolic patients in the outpatient UTPhysicians clinics and participate in the consult service in the NICU and PICU at Memorial Hermann. 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.

    .

  • Thesis Projects

    Students are expected to propose and complete a clinically-oriented or laboratory based research question that includes study design, collection of data (where applicable), data analysis, and a written thesis. Projects are developed during the Approaches to Research course work. A written thesis in publication ready format and an oral defense of the thesis are required for graduation. Over 75% of the thesis projects have been presented at national meetings and 65% published in peer reviewed journals. Abstracts and thesis titles from recent classes are listed on the thesis history page.

  • Mission, Vision, and Strategic Plan Objectives

    UTGCP Strategic Plan, Mission, and Vision 2021-2026

    Vision:

    The UTGCP is the leader in the education of genetic counseling students who support and advance genetics in healthcare.

    Mission:

    The UTGCP excels in the training of versatile genetic counselors by facilitating competency-based learning, supporting personalized growth, and immersing students in the depth and breadth of genetic counseling practice.

     UTGCP 2021-2026 Strategic Plan:

    1. Ensure graduates are prepared for the multitude of roles in the constantly evolving genetic counseling field by teaching and supporting counselor adaptability and humility throughout the curriculum and incorporating emerging trends that allow for flexibility beyond the practice-based competencies.
    2. Graduate a student body that consistently represents unique perspectives specific to the genetic counseling field by increasing the depth and breadth of the qualified applicant pool and expanding the community participating in the education of our students.
    3. Evaluate opportunities for acquiring new sources of revenue to support faculty and students and develop a plan for pursuing selected funding sources.

     

Admissions

  • Application Requirements

    Application Timeline

    • Application Deadline: December 1st
    • Interview Notifications: Mid-February
    • Interviews: March – April
    • Match Notifications: Late April

    Interview dates for 2024:

    Five interview dates in late Feb- March - TBD

    Visitation - each interviewee is asked to attend one:

    In person visitation day - TBD
    Virtual visitation - TBD
     
    Match notification: April 17, 2024. Determined and in accordance with the NMS-GC Admissions Match date.

    Required and Recommended Components

    Admission requirements generally follow those set by The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Houston Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. However, a few items to note specific to the UTGCP:

    • GPA: A GPA of 3.0 or greater is strongly recommended. Successful applicants generally have a GPA of greater than 3.5.
      • For institutions that do not utilize a 4.0 GPA scale, applicants should use an online converter to calculate your overall GPA on a 4.0 scale. WES and Scholaro are two free options to do so.
    • Coursework: undergraduate or graduate coursework in the following is recommended*
      • Genetics
      • Psychology
      • Biology
      • Chemistry
      • Biochemistry
      • Calculus
      • Statistics

    *Please note that due to the volume of applications received, we cannot review specific course work descriptions in advance of application submission. Applicants may list relevant coursework with brief clarifiers on their CV if necessary to clarify how course listings meet the recommended coursework.

    • Three letters of recommendation are required
    • Genetic counseling exposure is required via an internship, shadowing, or interviews
    • Client advocacy experience, crisis work, and volunteer work are all strongly recommended to have a competitive application
    • Essays: all essays must each be a maximum of two pages in length, 1.5 or double-spaced with 12 point font, and no smaller than 0.5 inch margins. Please use your best discretion with all other parameters. A Research Statement is not required for individuals applying to the MS Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling.
    • NMS: Applicants must register for the electronic genetic counseling match with National Matching Service (NMS) prior to applying to any genetic counseling program. For more details, questions, or to watch a video on how the matching algorithm works, please visit the GC Admissions Match website:  https://natmatch.com/gcadmissions/

     


    Items NOT Required

    • GRE scores are NOT required. Applicants may list GRE scores on their CV if desired.
    • Do not submit a research statement. It is NOT required for GC applicants. Applicants should list research experience on their CV.
    • Official transcripts are NOT required at the time of application submission. Unofficial transcripts should be submitted with the initial application; official transcripts will be requested from those selected for an interview.
  • Application Submission

    To submit an online application, please visit the Admissions page and refer to the Admissions FAQs for questions. Please note the special requirements for the genetic counseling program outlined above. Applicants may request a waiver of the application fee by emailing gsbs.admissions@uth.tmc.edu.


    International Applicants:

    A copy of your ETS TOEFL score report is required and should be uploaded online with the application. International applicants who have, or will have, received a diploma from a university at which English is the language of instruction, before the Fall 2022 semester, are not required to take the TOEFL exam. If this school is not in an English-speaking country, evidence that indicates the language of instruction will need to be provided with your application such as a letter from the university on official letterhead or a statement attesting to this on the institutional transcript. Applicants should upload the statement online, along with the transcript.

  • Tuition, Fees, and Financial Aid

    New: Tuition and Fees

    • In-state Tuition: The total cost of tuition for the entirety of the program across the 5 semesters is approximately $12,424.* For students who receive a competitive scholarship, total tuition is expected to be approximately $10,424.*
    • Out-of-state Tuition: The total cost of tuition for the entirety of the program across the 5 semesters is approximately $31,323.*
      • The UTGCP participates in the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Academic Common Market (ACM). Students whose home state participates in the SREB ACM and do not have a genetic counseling program in their home state at a public university may apply to receive in-state tuition at UT through the program. Participating states include: Delaware, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia.* Please visit http://home.sreb.org/acm/states.aspx for more information.
    • Additional details about tuition and fees may be found on the webpage for the Office of the Registrar at UTHealth: https://www.uth.edu/registrar/current-students/registration/tuition-fee-schedule.htm

    *subject to change


    Scholarships

    Up to 6 scholarships are available to incoming students. Each scholarship is worth $1000, but if awarded to an out-of-state student, qualifies that student for in-state tuition regardless of residency status. The scholarships are renewed in the second year of study for students in good standing.

    • The Jacqueline T. Hecht Founding Director Scholarship (2) and the James T. and Nancy Beamer Willerson Scholarships (2): these academic scholarships are awarded to three top students ranked by the program who match to the UTGCP.
    • Resilience Scholarship (2): these scholarships are awarded to incoming students who have shown resilience, or the ability to recover quickly during difficulty, as it is one important characteristic that can contribute to success in graduate school and a career in genetic counseling. Applicants need to submit an additional essay

    (Resilience Essay) in the online application to the program. This allows students the potential to be ranked on this additional track in the UTGCP match process.

    Additionally, the Barbara L. Kennedy Memorial Scholarship is awarded to one to two second year students for academic merit and financial need for academic merit and financial need. Similarly, this scholarship is worth $1000, but if awarded to an out-of-state student, qualifies that student for in-state tuition regardless of residency status. Students apply during the spring semester of their first year.


    Financial Aid

    Financial aid is offered to students through the UTHealth Office of Student Financial Aid. It is strongly recommended that applications for financial aid be submitted by March 1 of the year for which you are applying. Applications are processed on a first-come, first-serve basis, as determined by the date the application is complete. To ensure that funds are ready by the first day of class, applications must be completed no later than six weeks prior to the first day of class. Students may submit application materials for financial aid prior to receipt of offer of admission. Application materials may be obtained from the Office of Student Financial Aid, UT-Houston, P.O. Box 20036, Houston, Texas 77225. Visit https://www.uth.edu/sfs/ to learn more.

Genetic Counseling Social Media

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Contact Us

Meagan Choates, MS, CGC
Assistant Director

gsbs.gcpinfo@uth.tmc.edu

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Newsletters

Research Newsletter (May 2023)

Research Newsletter (May 2022)

Alumni Newsletter (November 2022)