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The Johns Hopkins University/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program


Student Life

Program Logistics: Coursework for the Genetic Counseling Training Program (GCTP) is offered on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., and at the medical and undergraduate campuses of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Courses are scheduled with the goal of minimizing the number of days students have to be at different geographic locations on the same day. Nonetheless, travel between Bethesda and Baltimore is required during each week. Clinical rotations are provided in both the greater Baltimore and Washington D.C. metro areas. Car travel is essential to manage the program, although students often carpool.

VideoWhat about the commute between Baltimore and Bethesda?  

GCTP Newsletters

All newsletters are in PDF format PDF file



A Day in the Life of a 1st Year Student

7:00 a.m: Wake up, eat breakfast, and get ready for the day.

8:00 a.m: Shuttle ride to the School of Public Health. I take the free, fifteen-minute Hopkins shuttle with my fellow Hopkins peers to the Medical and Public Health Campus in East Baltimore. I meet my classmate at the Hampton House Café to pick up an ice coffee and banana before heading to class. 

8:30 - 9:30 a.m: Thesis Proposal Development. We have class with our Associate Director, Lori Erby. This week, we learn about qualitative study designs from a guest lecturer faculty member at the school of public health. After the lecture, my classmates discuss the day's reading and share ideas and interests that will inspire our thesis research. 

10:30 a.m: Downtime in the Hopkins library. I print out two articles that were selected by my upper classmate for Journal Club on Thursday night and fill in my thoughts for discussion. This week's topic is about how to measure the outcomes of genetic counseling and how to use these measures to evaluate different methods of communication.

11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m: Carpool to the NIH. Today it's my turn to drive so the five of us pack into my car, Bertha. We share stories about our past weekend and any upcoming weekend plans and try to relax. This is a time when we also discuss upcoming assignments or work on current group assignments. We also discuss the two papers for the Journal Club next week.

12:00 - 1:00 p.m: Lunch and catch-up on work. While I eat a sandwich from the NIH cafeteria, I review cases for Supervision at my NIH cubicle by listening to my tapes from clinic and spending some time reflecting on the cases. I also work on finalizing details for my Post Clinic Conference presentation, a short lecture I will present to the NIH geneticists, genetics fellows, and my classmates.

1:00 - 3:00 p.m: Cancer Genetics. Today, my classmates and I learn how to use BRCA1/2 risk assessment models. We begin class by each presenting a case to the group in which we have conducted a thorough cancer and mutation risk assessment. Then we learn about psychosocial counseling issues and the available evidence-based research to inform counseling in the clinical cancer setting from a guest lecturer at the NIH. We end class by each sharing our ideas for our "Create Your Own Multi-Gene Panel" presentation on the last day of class.

3:30 - 4:30 p.m: Supervision with Barb Biesecker. Barb and I listen to my taped session, and discuss what went well and what could be improved. Then we role-play to practice counseling skills together.

4:30 p.m: Downtime and prep for Genetic Counseling Seminar on Friday. I listen to my tape from clinic and transcribe a part of a case while enjoying a bowl of my newest soup recipe. I print the lecture slides for my next class and talk with my classmates.

5:30 - 7:30 p.m: Introduction to Medical Genetics II. We walk over to a different building on campus and go to class with the 2nd-year classmates as well as the NIH medical genetics fellows and other researchers. Each week we receive a lecture from a leading geneticist or researcher in a specific field. Today's class is a review of neurogenetics, given by the division chief of neurodevelopmental disabilities at Children's National Medical Center.

7:30 - 8:30 p.m: Drive back to Baltimore. My classmates and I mostly relax, joke around, and watch funny YouTube videos to unwind from the day.

8:30 p.m: Arrive home. I talk with my husband, then try to get ahead by doing some reading for our class about the ethical, legal, and social implications in genetics, which is in two days.

A Day in the Life of a 2nd year student

8:30 a.m: Drive to the NIH. Ten minutes from my apartment in downtown Bethesda, I quickly get on campus and park near our building.

8:45 - 9:45 a.m: Head to the gym. Our building has a small but convenient gym in the basement, complete with locker rooms and showers. The gym membership is an easy $20 per month or a $5 drop-in fee, and fitness classes are available for slightly more. Some days I go for a trail run at the Patuxent Reservoir in the afternoon or evening, but today is a little too busy for that.

11:00am - 1:00 p.m: Health Judgment and Decision-making class. Dr. Bill Klein lectures and leads discussions about the psychology of decision-making and how we can use such knowledge to help clients in clinic. As part of the class, we each present a research paper, and today is my turn. I talk about what made me want to present this paper, then review the population, the methodology, the results, and the strengths and shortcomings. We discuss the paper's potential impact on decision science and how we might use the study as a jumping-off point for further research.

1:00 - 3:00 p.m: Lunch at my desk and catch-up on clinical work. When I don't have time to pack my lunch, I go upstairs to our cafeteria for a salad or sandwich. I generally make a cup of tea in the kitchen and work on my schoolwork. I call my rotation advisor to debrief about clinic yesterday, as we didn't have time to do so after clinic. We talk about what went well and what could use improvement in my counseling skills. We also look at the clinic schedule for next week and decide which patients I will see.  I work on the desktop computer at my desk prepping for tomorrow's clinic by sifting through online patient records, researching differential diagnoses, and writing clinical notes to ensure I am prepared to see patients tomorrow. I also enter last week's cases into my logbook. Lastly, I transcribe one of my cases to present in our Seminar class on Friday.

3:30 - 4:15 p.m: Thesis meeting with my thesis advisor. Barb Biesecker and I discuss the progress I have made on my thesis proposal, as well as any questions I have. She advises me on ways to refine and clarify my objectives, as well as ways to effectively execute my study.

4:15 - 5:00 p.m: Work on my thesis proposal. A written copy of our thesis proposal is due to the executive committee in mid-November and oral defenses of our proposals are generally in early December. I spend the rest of my afternoon writing a section of my proposal.

5:00 - 6:00 p.m: Back home. I unwind with my roommates while eating dinner and watching TV.

6:00 - 9:00 p.m: Reading and homework. I review a few more notes and papers to prepare for clinic tomorrow, then download our readings and begin one for our Facilitating Adaptation class, where we learn about the various psychological processes related to adaption. I also download the slides for our Medical Genetics and Genomics class later in the week.

A Day in the Life of a 3rd year student

8:00 a.m: Quality time with my friends at National Public Radio. They keep me company on the drive from my house near the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Baltimore to meet with my thesis advisor.

9:00 a.m: Pre-thesis-meeting visit to the Daily Grind at Hopkins for coffee.

9:30 a.m: Meeting with my thesis advisor, Debra Roter. We discuss how I'm going analyze all those surveys patients were kind enough to complete for me.

11:00 a.m: Pick up classmates to carpool back to NIH. NPR is great, but classmates in the car is better, and on this particular day, there's a journal club that they will be attending in Bethesda before returning to their homes in Baltimore.

12:00 p.m: Settle into my cubicle for an afternoon of data analysis and preparation. For my next day in clinic., interspersed, of course, with a little bit of fun and conversation with those working around me at NIH.

5:30 p.m: Journal club at Barb Biesecker's house. We discuss the importance of self-efficacy for our patients over take-out Indian and play with Barb's cat, Thea

8:00 p.m: Back home again. I log on to my computer thinking I might open up my data set again, but end up chatting on-line with my classmates about our up-coming travel to the NSGC meeting.

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Last Updated: September 13, 2016