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The first year of study focuses primarily on coursework in general genetics and counseling skills. Clinical, laboratory, research, and advocacy experiences complement the didactic curriculum. In addition, students select a Capstone Project topic and begin their research during the second semester.
GMS GC 601 – Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling (3 credits)
GMS GC 603 – Embryology, Teratology, and Prenatal Genetics (3 credits)
GMS GC 605 – Clinical Applications in Human Genetics (4 credits)
GMS MH 703 – Counseling Techniques and Helping Relationships (3 credits)
GMS GC 700 – Genetic Counseling Clinical Rotation I (2 credits)
GMS GC 600 – Genetic Diagnosis and Laboratory Methods (3 credit)
GMS GC 601 – Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling, cont.
GMS GC 602 – Clinical Genetics (3 credits)
GMS GC 716 – Social, Cultural, and Ethical Issues in Genetics (3 credits)*
GMS GC 702S – Genetic Counseling Clinical Rotation II (2 credits)
Second Year Curriculum
The second year of study focuses on clinical experience and research project development. In addition, the coursework covers more advanced topics in medical genetics, professional issues, and genetic counseling sub-specialties. The number of required credits is decreased during Semester 4, so as to allow students adequate time to complete their research projects, acquire a robust array of fieldwork experiences, and begin interviews for job placement.
GMS GC 604 – Cancer Genetic Counseling (3 credits)
GMS GC 703 – Genetic Counseling Clinical Rotation III (2 credits)
GMS GC 711 – Advanced Genetic Counseling (4 credits)
GMS MH 708 – Human Growth & Development (3 credits)
GMS GC 704 – Genetic Counseling Clinical Rotation IV (2 credits)
GMS GC 711 – Advanced Genetic Counseling, cont.
GMS GC 712 – Metabolic Genetics / Advanced Risk Assessment (3 credits)*
GMS GC 714 – Advanced Topics in Medical Genetics (3 credits)
* Courses that are taught every other year
In addition, each student will take a BU graduate-level course in research design, research methodology, and/or statistical analysis. They are also encouraged to take elective courses throughout BUMC that align with their personal interests and professional goals.
Rotations and Observations
The clinical and non-clinical rotations and observations provide students with opportunities to develop their counseling skills in a broad range of settings. These first-hand experiences familiarize students with individuals and families affected by a variety of genetic disorders. The following list includes some of the settings available for student observations and rotations: Boston University (Antenatal Testing Unit, Pediatric Genetics, Cancer Genetics, Breast Health Program, Huntington Disease Center, Autism Research Center of Excellence, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics clinics, Maternal Fetal Medicine clinic, Amyloid Treatment Program, and Sickle Cell Clinic), Boston Children’s Hospital (Metabolism Clinic, Neurogenetics Clinic, Program in Genomics, Congenital Myopathies Clinic, LEND Program, Comprehensive Brain Malformations Program, and Department of Otolaryngology (ENT) and Communication Enhancement), Massachusetts General Hospital (Developmental Neurogenetics clinic, Mitochondrial disorders clinic, and Down syndrome clinic), Brigham & Women’s Hospital (Green Lab: Research Program in Translational Genomics and Health Outcomes and Adult Genetics clinic), Harvard Medical School Laboratory for Molecular Medicine, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Baystate Medical Center, UMass Memorial Medical Center, Lahey Clinic, Rhode Island Hospital, Women & Infants Hospital, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Tufts Medical Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Vanguard, South Shore Hospital, and the Feingold Center for Children.
During the first year, students observe in a genetic counseling (or related) clinic for one half-day or full day per week. The observations include several core clinics at BMC, including prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics, as well as several specialty clinics within and outside of BMC. During the second semester, students continue to observe in the specialty clinics, but they begin active participation in the core genetics clinics at BMC. Student participation in counseling sessions includes case preparation, contracting with patients, obtaining prenatal, medical and family history information, and explaining basic genetic concepts to patients. It is expected that each student will take the lead counseling role in at least two full cases (for a common referral reason) before the end of the first year. Students are also involved in reviewing patient charts and online medical records, collecting patient literature and testing information, and writing follow-up letters.
During the intervening summer, each student spends six weeks full-time (or 30 days total) at an external rotation site. Students are encouraged to brainstorm early about potential cities and/or clinics of interest. To date, we have arranged clinical rotations in a wide variety of sub-specialties and cities, including San Francisco, Miami, New York, Seattle, Denver, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Houston, Providence, Washington D.C., San Diego, Anchorage, and Madrid.
During the second year, each student completes 4 seven-week rotations at sites within Boston Medical Center and throughout New England. Each student will intern at a prenatal, pediatric/general, cancer, and non-clinical site. The non-clinical sites include opportunities in labs, research, industry, public health, and advocacy. Placements are assigned based on the student’s interest. Each rotation is approximately two full-days per week, or 14 days total. Students typically require access to a car for 1-2 of these rotations. For students who prefer not to own a car, we encourage them to inquire about Zipcar, a popular car sharing service here in Boston (www.zipcar.com).
Each student completes their graduate training with the presentation of a Capstone Project. The purpose of the Capstone Project is to equip students with the knowledge and skills required to contribute to the field of genetic counseling. This individualized scholarly work may consist of a detailed case study and literature review, a clinical or laboratory research project, or a clinical application (such as developing clinical practice tools or professional educational programs or creating informational material to benefit individuals and families with genetic disorders). Students should pick a project that will pique their interests and passions, as well as contribute to the knowledge and/or practice of genetic counseling.
During the spring semester of their first year, each student selects a topic for study that is approved by the Executive Capstone Committee. Students submit their proposals for IRB approval during the intervening summer and then the projects are executed during the second year of study. Genetic Counseling Research Seminars are provided throughout GMS GC601 Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling and GMS GC711 Advanced Genetic Counseling. Each Capstone Project is completed under the guidance of a Capstone Project Committee, which consists of a Project Advisor and a Project Reader, both of whom may be chosen from the primary or adjunct faculty. Each project culminates in a formal paper and an oral presentation to the department and invited guests. The paper should be of publishable quality and may be submitted for presentation at a national genetics meeting.