The Master of Genetic Counselor Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health features a balance of challenging didactic studies with observational and experiential clinical activities. 

The curriculum also allows time for research. The following is an example of a possible schedule of courses for students who will graduate in 2017.

Semester I (fall semester): 11 credits

  • Pediatrics 677, 1 credit - Medical Genetics (MedGen721)
  • Pediatrics 741, 1 credit - Interviewing and Counseling for the Genetic Counselor
  • Counseling Psych 620, 1 credit - Theory and Practice in Interviewing (lecture)
  • Pediatrics 713, 3 credits (16 hours/week) - Practicum in Genetic Counseling
  • Pediatrics 737, 1 credit - Contemporary Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling 
  • Pediatrics 739, 2 credits - Academic Methodologies and Resources for Genetic Counselors 
  • Pediatrics 744, 2 credits - Genetic Counseling for Inborn Errors of Metabolism

Semester II (spring semester): 10 credits *

  • Medical Genetics 562, 2 credits - Human Cytogenetics and Molecular Diagnostics
  • Pediatrics 646, 2 credits - Cancer Risk Assessment and Counseling
  • Pediatrics 714, 3 credits (16 hours/week) - Practicum in Genetic Counseling
  • Pediatrics 737, 1 credit - Contemporary Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling
  • Pediatrics 742, 1 credit - Clinical Embryology and Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Pediatrics 745, 1 credit - Genetic Counseling Research Seminar
  • Elective - 1 to 2 credits *

Summer session

  • Mayo Clinic Internship (1 week)
  • Second-year rotations begin

Semester III (fall semester): 12 credits

Semester IV (spring semester): 8 credits *

* Graduate students must take at least 8 credits to be considered full-time students. They may take a maximum of 12 credits per semester. Semesters II and IV and the summer are opportunities, time permitting, for students to take an elective course.

Course descriptions

Medical Genetics 562: Human Cytogenetics

This course is an introduction to clinical laboratory genetics with particular focus on the relevance of human cytogenetics and molecular genetics to the practice of medical genetics. The course content will include human chromosome structure, function, nomenclature and current clinical laboratory methods. Following completion of the course students are expected to understand the mechanisms that lead to genetic alterations and their relevance to the genetic disease.

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Counseling Psychology 620: Theory and Practice in Interviewing (Lecture)

Students enrolled in this course will be able to demonstrate knowledge of skills and competencies involved in the interview process. Topics covered include:

  • Theoretical bases for conducting interviews
  • Introductions to counseling
  • Interviewing techniques  and communication skills
  • Cultural self-awareness
  • Opportunities to practice are included in the Medical Genetics 677 Interviewing and Counseling for the Genetic Counselor lab.

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Pediatrics 646: Cancer Risk Assessment and Counseling

Students are provided with a background in cancer genetics from a medical, biological and clinical perspective. The course is divided into three main parts:

  • General principles and topics in oncology
  • Familial cancers and cancer syndromes
  • Management, counseling, social, ethical and legal issues
  • Student-led case presentations supplement individual topics

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Pediatrics 677: Medical Genetics

This is a one-semester course taken in the fall of a genetic counseling student's first year of training. This course is also required of medical students. Principles, problems, and methods of human genetics are studied from a clinical perspective. Topic areas surveyed include:

  • Medical genetics
  • Biochemical genetics
  • Molecular genetics
  • Cytogenetics
  • Quantitative genetics
  • Variation as applied to humans

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Pediatrics 708: Genetic Counseling Research

Students will plan, conduct and implement a research or other project that contributes to the body of knowledge of the discipline. This will be done with the guidance of an identified major professor within the Medical Genetics Department.

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Pediatrics 713/714: Practicum in Genetic Counseling

This two-semester course is designed for first-year genetic counseling interns. Students are introduced to skills, knowledge and resources that will allow them to attain an emerging level of proficiency in identified skills within the Practice Based Competencies (PBCS) as defined by the Accreditation Council of Genetic Counseling.

These skills are attained through didactic work and observational and experiential clinical activities. Activities include:

  • Weekly unit meetings with discussion of selected topics, including genetic risk assessment
  • Clinic observation according to a structured format
  • Counseling opportunities with standardized patients through the Clinical Training and Assessment Center
  • Participation in clinical rotations

The rotations include active participation in, but not limited to, the Biochemical Genetics Clinic, Midwest Regional Bone Dysplasia Clinic, General Genetics, Cystic Fibrosis Clinic, Craniofacial Clinic, Muscular Dystrophy Clinic, Developmental Disabilities Clinic, as well as Laboratory and Public Health experiences

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Pediatrics 731: Clinical Genetics

This is an intensive course designed for second year trainees in genetics counseling. It aims to provide practical information about clinical genetics that will be needed by future genetics counselors in all settings of their profession. Included is:

  • A historical introduction
  • Principles of dysmorphology
  • Importance of an accurate diagnosis
  • Natural history of disorders

Emphasis is on the medical, developmental and laboratory evaluation of the family as the unit of genetic investigation. Illustrative practical case histories and examples reinforce all topic areas.

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Pediatrics 737: (A, B, C, D) Contemporary Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling

Medical Genetics 737 is a sequential four-semester course for both first- and second-year genetic counseling interns Topics selected are those relevant to the profession of genetic counseling but not available through traditional courses offered on this campus. An underlying theme throughout the course is the way in which genetic counseling influences and is influenced by each topic area.

Important considerations for the topic modules are:

  • The professional roles and responsibilities of genetic counselors within the context of the clinical genetics team, the health care community and society
  • Counseling needs of families
  • Prevention capabilities of 21st century genetics
  • Social, ethical, legal and cultural issues
  • Health care delivery systems
  • The principles and practice of public health

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Pediatrics 739: Academic Methodologies and Resources for Genetic Counselors

Approaches to searches of clinical genetics literature include computerized databases (e.g., PubMed, OMIN, Medline, Science Citation, Index) and information retrieval (e.g., TERAS, Reprotox, London, POSSUM). Students learn to critically read clinical literature, to recognize and assess biases and to understand the limits of currently available studies in clinical genetics. Each student completes practice searches, article analysis and a literature review of a particular topic. Necessary statistical knowledge is also included.

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Pediatrics 742: Clinical Embryology and Prenatal Diagnosis

This course covers human development (normal and abnormal) and the influence of genetic disorders and teratogens. Also included are the common indications for prenatal genetic counseling and the available prenatal diagnosis and screening techniques. This course, intended for the first year genetic counseling student, helps prepare the student for the second year prenatal clinical practicum. 

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Pediatrics 744: Genetic Counseling for Inborn Errors of Metabolism

This metabolic genetics course provide a comprehensive overview of clinical biochemical genetics through a systematic review of classical and rare inborn errors of metabolism (IEM). Upon completing, students will be able to describe the natural history, testing strategies, inheritance, disease mechanism and therapy for each disorder covered. Psychosocial issues will be discussed as related to care of patients, as well as their family, with metabolic disorders.

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Pediatrics 745: Genetic Counseling Research Seminar

Seminar is an introduction to campus investigators whose research is relevant to clinical genetics. Students will also participate in a monthly journal club where they present a summary of a current research article from an assigned journal. During their second year, the student will be the major presenter of the journal club. Human Genetics Seminar also is a time for students to generate ideas for their second-year projects.

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Pediatrics 813/814: Advanced Practicum in Genetic Counseling

This two-semester course is designed for second-year genetic counseling interns. Students build on the skills and knowledge acquired in MedGen 713/714 and are introduced to new ones.

Acquisition of these skills is through intensive experiential clinical activities and didactic work. Activities include weekly unit meetings with discussion of selected topics, and participation in three 12-week clinical rotations. The rotations include active participation in the following clinics:

  • Prenatal (UnityPoint-Meriter Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital/Dean Perinatal Centers)
  • Oncology (UW Carbone Cancer Center)
  • Pediatric and Adult Genetics (American Family Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin)
  • Single Disease Specialty Clinics (e.g. Sickle Cell Clinic)

Completion of the four-semester sequence (713/714, 813/814) will allow students to attain a beginning level of proficiency in all skills within the Practice Based Competencies (PBCS) as defined by the Accreditation Council of Genetic Counseling.

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