Curriculum

Minimum total units required: 43 Units

Both the field of genetics and the professional roles occupied by genetic counselors are constantly evolving.  To reflect the ever changing demands of our profession, the Genetic Counseling Program strives to incorporate new developments, be they emerging laboratory technologies or new counseling paradigms, into the curriculum. Core concepts are explored across multiple courses to ensure maximum comprehension and encourage creative analysis from different perspectives.  Small class sizes ensure that students receive individualized attention and promote both peer and faculty mentorship.  Knowledge gained through academic coursework is put into practice through multiple clinical placements that are fully integrated into the didactic program.


First Year

Advanced Medical Genetics I & II - This course seeks to provide students with a foundation in applied medical genetics, focusing on dysmorphology, clinical features, diagnoses, etiology and management of common genetic and birth defects.  Guest speakers with expertise in specialized areas of medical genetics will contribute heavily to the course.

Clinical Embryology and Prenatal Genetics - Aspects of embryology relevant to understanding the etiology and treatment of birth defects and the effects of teratogenic agents will be covered. The physiology of pregnancy and prenatal diagnosis and screening will be discussed.

Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Biology - Introduction to clinical cytogenetic disorders, and the molecular and cytogenetic analytical tools used for diagnosis and investigation of human genetic variations.  Will include discussion of karyotype analysis, microarrays, and variant interpretation. 

Principles of Human Genetics - In-depth exploration of fundamental principles in human genetics, including: Mendelian and non-Mendelian inheritance, pedigree analysis, genetic risk calculations, multifactorial disorders, population genetics.

Principles and Practices of Genetic Counseling I & II - Fundamental principles regarding the psychosocial aspects of genetic counseling are explored. Special emphasis is given to the social impact on the individual and family. Basic interviewing skills are developed through role play and in-class exercises.

Graduate Seminar in Genetics - Various aspects of genetics and genetic counseling are explored through guest lectures and discussion of recent journal articles. Guest lecturers will present on topics covering a wide spectrum of issues relevant to the genetic counseling profession and research in the field.  Class review of journal articles will help model important components to consider in developing appropriate research methodologies and effective research based writing.

Research Project I & II - Introduction to the process of formulating and conducting a research project, including the IRB protocol submission process, writing a research proposal, and preparations for an oral defense.  Guest speakers will present potential research ideas for student projects.

Special Topics in Genetics: Clinical Skills and Community Experiences - In depth analysis of contemporary practice in the field of genetic counseling focused on accruing the necessary skills to be a competent clinician including taking patient and family histories, pedigree analysis, case preparation and documentation and telemedicine.

Family Connections - Beginning in the first term each student is paired with a local family who has utilized genetic counseling services. These personal connections increase students’exposure, comfort level and sensitivity to children and adults with disabilities.

Fall Externship - In preparation for subsequent rotations, students participate in an externship for 4-6 hours per week.  Placements include both clinical and industry settings and are designed to give first year students exposure to employing genetics in a professional context.

Biochemical Genetics - Study of the molecular basis of genetic diseases and the biochemical pathways associated with inborn errors of metabolism disorders. Molecular and biochemical laboratory methodologies and data analysis will be discussed.

Cancer Genetics - Discussion of common types of cancer as well as rare inherited cancer syndromes. Molecular basis, physiological pathology, testing, risk assessment and treatment for different types of cancer will be covered.

Research Methods - Introduction to quantitative and qualitative research methodologies utilized in research studies relevant for genetic counselors.  The quantitative component will include survey development and various statistical analyses using SPSS software.  The qualitative component will include interviewing skills, focus group sessions, interview guide development, and various approaches to qualitative data analysis.

Molecular Biology and Cytogenetics Lab - The course will provide exposure to the latest technologies in diagnostic testing and analysis.  Will include field trips to various institutions that provide these services relevant for genetic counselors.  Workshops on variant interpretation and microarray analysis will be included.

Summer Clinical Rotation - Students embark upon their first clinical rotation totaling 10 weeks during the intervening summer between first and second year. Rotations are available in the Bay Area or in other locations of interest.


Second Year

Principles and Practices of Genetic Counseling III & IV - Focus on advanced theoretical and practical aspects of genetic counseling, advanced counseling skills and application in the clinical environment. Clinical experience and didactic material are inter-related through case presentations and other assignments.

Bioethics - Issues of professional and social ethics that arise in the practice of genetic counseling are discussed. Broad currents in moral philosophy and ethical thought are explored and applied to specific contemporary topics in genetics and genetic counseling.  Students will practice thinking critically about ethical dilemmas using a variety of theoretical perspectives and vocabularies.

Clinical Rotations - Students will complete 3 additional 10-week rotations at sites in the Bay Area.

Research Project - Students must complete a research project that is approved by the Research Coordinator of the program. They must pass an oral defense and submit an approved written research paper.