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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 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

UTGCP Training Progression

Genetic Counseling Training Progression Image

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. 

Please visit the SMS in Genetic Counseling degree requirements page for more information on degree milestones and expected times of achievement.

Course Descriptions

  • Advanced Clinical Rotation in Genetic Counseling
    Course Detail

    GS11 1174 (4 credits)
    All Semesters

    Czerwinski, Jennifer; Singletary, Claire. Four semester hours. Spring, Summer, Fall, annually. Grading System: Pass or Fail. Prerequisite: Introductory Clinical Rotation - Genetic Counseling

    This course provides genetic counseling students with the opportunity to provide the majority of the genetic counseling during sessions, focusing on refining their clinical counseling skills and further developing their psychosocial counseling skills. Students are encouraged to tackle even the most complex cases coupled with appropriate supervisor support. At the conclusion of the advanced rotations, students will be expected to be fully trained genetic counselors. Genetic counseling students in their second year are eligible for this course.

  • Approaches to Genetic Counseling Research I
    Course Detail

    GS11 1142 (2 credits)
    Spring

    Hashmi, S. Shahrukh, Choates, Meagan. Two semester hours. Spring, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: Introduction to Genetic Counseling (GS11 1132). 

    This course provides an introduction to basic concepts in epidemiology, statistics and research instruction on how to use STATA to perform univariable statistical analysis. Students will also receive instruction on concepts in human research and rationale for IRB reviews. Group discussions during this course will help students polish their research questions and methodology. Genetic counseling students in their first year of study are eligible for this course.

  • Approaches to Genetic Counseling Research II
    Course Detail

    GS11 1152 (2 credits)
    Fall

    Hashmi, S. Shahrukh; Choates, Meagan. Two semester hours. Fall, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: Approaches to Genetic Counseling Research Part I.

    This course provides an introduction to advanced concepts in epidemiology and statistics and instruction on how to use STATA to perform advanced multivariable statistical analysis. Genetic counseling students in their second year of study who have passed Approaches to Genetic Counseling Research Part I are eligible for this course.

  • Biomedical Ethics for the Genetic Counselor
    Course Detail

    GS21 1181 (1 credits)
    Fall

    Lunstroth, Rebecca. One semester hour. Fall, annually. Grading System: Pass or Fail. Prerequisite: none

    This course provides a foundation for navigating biomedical ethics topics likely to be encountered during genetic counseling training and practice, including issues relevant to clinical, research and industry based genetic counselors. The course is case based and primarily student led. This course will be coordinated and primarily facilitated by the course directors.  Genetic counseling faculty and outside guest speakers will also participate on occasion.

  • Cancer Genetics (Genetic Counseling)
    Course Detail

    GS11 1012 (2 credits)
    Fall

    Saporito, Donika; Corredor, Jessie. Two semester hours. Fall, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. 

    This course is taught by the faculty and staff of UT MD Anderson Cancer Center and includes lectures by experts in basic science cancer research, clinical oncology, pathology and cancer genetic counseling. Some of the topics covered include overview of cancer biology and clinical oncology, hereditary colon cancer syndromes, hereditary breast cancer syndromes, rare cancer syndromes, management of high risk patients, collecting a cancer-focused family history, hereditary cancer risk assessment models and tools, and psycho social aspects of cancer risk assessment and counseling. Students will expand and refine the knowledge and skills learned in this course during their clinical cancer genetics rotation.

  • Contemporary Issues in Genetic Counseling
    Course Detail

    GS11 1031 (1 credits)
    Spring and Fall

    Singletary, Claire; Czerwinski, Jennifer. One semester hour. Fall and Spring, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisites: Psychosocial Issues in Genetics and II; Ethical Dimensions of the Biomedical Sciences

    This course provides a platform for exploration of the complex ethical and moral issues that arise in genetic counseling. The format varies weekly and includes presenting and discussing advanced psychosocial topics, debating ethical case scenarios, and participating in seminars for continued professional development. Genetic counseling students in their second year are eligible for this course.

  • Embryology
    Course Detail

    GS11 1011 (1 credits)
    Fall

    Choates, Meagan; Singletary, Claire. One semester hour. Fall, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: 1st year Genetic Counseling students.

    This course provides an introduction to normal human embryologic development of the major body systems. The presented topics will create a foundation on which students can receive information on abnormal development relevant to genetic disease. In addition, students are expected to consider how these concepts can be communicated to a patient in a clear, concise manner. This course is coordinated by two board certified genetic counselors with lectures from Medical School faculty.

  • Introduction to Genetic Counseling
    Course Detail

    GS11 1132 (2 credits)
    Fall

    Ramdaney, Aarti; Jones, Malorie. Two semester hours. Fall, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: consent of instructor; the course is intended for students admitted to the specialized master of science program in Genetic Counseling.

    In this course, students learn the foundation of the genetic counseling profession, including the history of the profession, intake and pedigree skills, ethnic carrier screening, and basic prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetic counseling concepts. Material is delivered in a small group presentation and discussion format, as well as via lecture and practice-based role-play. Multiple genetic counseling faculty contribute to this course. Students in the first semester of the genetic counseling program are eligible for this course. 

  • Introductory Clinical Rotation in Genetic Counseling
    Course Detail

    GS11 1173 (3 credits)
    Spring

    Czerwinski, Jennifer; Singletary, Claire. Three semester hours. Spring annually. Grading System: Pass or Fail.  Prerequisite: Introduction to Genetic Counseling.

    This course provides genetic counseling students with the opportunity to become familiar with each clinical setting, including clinical operations, patient population and other members of the health care team. Students learn how to obtain general and specialty-focused family, pregnancy, and medical histories. They also provide the evaluation and assessment of cases including medical record and literature review. Differential diagnoses are discussed and students observe counseling sessions as well as some diagnostic and medical procedures. As the semester progresses, students begin assuming some of the roles of the genetic counselor during the session, focusing on accurate risk assessment and patient education, and progressing to conducting an entire session. Genetic counseling students in their first year are eligible for this course.

  • Prenatal Genetic Counseling
    Course Detail

    GS11 1172 (2 credits)
    Fall

    Singletary, Claire; Czerwinski Jennifer.  Two-semester hour.  Fall, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Open only to Genetic Counseling M.S. Students.

    This course provides an in-depth review of current topics in prenatal genetic counseling, including screening and diagnostic testing, ultrasound findings, and teratogens.  Students are expected to gain an appreciation for more complex prenatal issues that impact prenatal practice and to work on critical thinking skills.  This course is coordinated by two board certified prenatal genetic counselors with lectures by the Genetic Counseling Program faculty.

  • Psychosocial Issues in Genetic Counseling I
    Course Detail

    GS11 1082 (2 credits)
    Fall

    Singletary, Claire; Czerwinski, Jennifer. Two semester hours. Fall, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. 

    Psychosocial aspects of genetic counseling combine didactic lectures and role-play to teach psychosocial issues associated with genetic disease. Topics include: basic counseling skills, interviewing skills, giving a family a diagnosis, breaking difficult news, disabilities, multicultural issues, and counseling for chronic disease. This course is taught by the program directors.

  • Psychosocial Issues in Genetic Counseling II
    Course Detail

    GS11 1182 (2 credits)
    Spring

    Singletary, Claire; Czerwinski, Jennifer. Two credit hours. Spring, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisites: Psychosocial Issues in Genetics. Enrollment required of all Genetic Counseling M.S. students. Open only to Genetic Counseling M.S. students.

    This course builds upon the baseline psychosocial issues in genetic counseling taught in the fall semester and is comprised of various units focusing on psychosocial issues in genetic counseling such as cultural competency, mental illness, grief and end of life are included. Students will have the opportunity to participate in various in-class activities, discussions and role-plays. This course is coordinated by the program directors and is facilitated by the Genetic Counseling Program faculty.

  • Psychosocial Practicum
    Course Detail

    GS11 1021 (1 credits)
    Spring

    Singletary, Claire; Czerwinski, Jennifer. One credit hour. Spring, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade.  Enrollment required of all Genetic Counseling M.S. students. Open only to Genetic Counseling M.S. students.

    This is a two-year course focusing on psychosocial issues in genetic counseling comprised of various units focusing on psychosocial issues in genetic counseling.  Topics surrounding cultural competency are also included.  Students will have the opportunity to participate in various in-class activities, discussions and role-plays.  Role-plays allow students to consider different counseling techniques, to learn how personal biases may affect the counseling session, and to practice how to employ empathy, advanced empathy, confrontation, active listening, reflecting, etc.   This course is coordinated by two board-certified prenatal genetic counselors and is facilitated by the Genetic Counseling Program faculty.

  • Topics in Medical Genetics I
    Course Detail

    GS11 1622 (2 credits)
    Fall

    Dunnington, Leslie; Gunther, Kathryn:  Two semester hours. Fall, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: None; however, Genetics and Human Disease (GS11 1013) may be taken concurrently

    The first-semester course focuses on the fundamentals of Medical Genetics. It combines didactic lectures and discussions. The human genetics faculty teach this "state of the art" course.

  • Topics in Medical Genetics II
    Course Detail

    GS11 1642 (2 credits)
    Spring

    Dunnington, Leslie; Gunther, Kathryn  Two semester hours. Spring, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: Topics in Medical Genetics I (GS11 1622) and consent of instructor.

    The second-semester course focuses on individual topics related to the practice of Medical Genetics. Topics include: biochemical conditions, molecular genetics and cytogenetics, evaluation of organ systems with emphasis on genetic pathogenesis of malformations and dysmorphology. This course is a combination of didactic lectures and discussions. The lecturers are experts in their respective fields.