Genetic Counseling graduate program to start at CSU Stanislaus in fall

Genetic counselors are needed throughout the state and California State University, Stanislaus will offer a new master's degree program starting in Fall 2008 to help meet that demand.

The University will launch its Master of Science in Genetic Counseling Program next fall in collaboration with UC San Francisco, San Francisco State University, and Kaiser Permanente. CSU Stanislaus Professor of Biological Sciences and human genetics expert Dr. Janey Youngblom will serve as Associate Director for the program which will be conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area. Students will have the opportunity to do clinical training in the Bay Area as well as the Central Valley medical facilities. The two-year program will be offered through the CSU Stanislaus Department of Biological Sciences and fiscally managed through University Extended Education with startup funds provided through the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Community Grants Program, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology, and the CSU Commission of Extended University.

"Genetic counselors are currently in very high demand so our graduates should have no problem getting hired upon program completion," Youngblom said. "There are currently no genetic counselors in the Modesto/Turlock area, although there are offices in Modesto that do provide genetic counselors who come from Sacramento or the Bay Area for day clinics. We hope to help establish permanent positions in our region."

The new CSU Stanislaus program recently received accreditation from the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) as only the third university program on the West Coast. As an indication that the upcoming program is already making its presence known, Youngblom was featured in an October article in the premier international science journal Nature that focused on the need for genetic counselors.

Genetic counselors are medical professionals who combine expertise in human genetics and knowledge of important medical discoveries with the ability to communicate their knowledge to patients and families dealing with genetic disorders and inherited health conditions ranging from cancer and heart disease to birth defects and mental retardation. Using analysis of genetic histories and conditions, genetic diagnoses, and other relevant information, genetic counselors help patients identify diseases and refer them to early medical treatment and make recommendations on the best forms of care. After passing the ABGC board certification examination, graduates will be able to practice anywhere in the U.S. Youngblom is currently collaborating on a research project with Dr. Gene Fisch, a Research Professor in Epidemiology and Health Promotion at New York University. They are correlating clinical and cognitive assessment of patients with detailed DNA analysis to better understand specific chromosomal disorders involving families in the Central Valley. CSU Stanislaus undergraduate students who plan to enroll in the Genetic Counseling program are assisting in the project.

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