The JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program trains students to conduct social, behavior and policy research in the field of genetic counseling and provides clinical rotations for students to learn directly about genetic conditions, their impact on individuals and their families, and the role of the professional genetic counselor.

Clinical Training

Clinical rotations begin in the second quarter of the program and are required throughout, including summers. Because training for a career in genetic counseling requires meaningful interaction with clients in a variety of settings, students in the program have access to more than twenty-five adult, pediatric, prenatal and specialty genetic clinical training sites in the Baltimore-Washington area (See: Washington DC/Baltimore Area Clinical Rotation Sites).

In addition, most students complete rotations at the NIH Clinical Research Center. These experiences are linked to investigations into the cause and clinical history of genetic conditions and behavioral issues surrounding the use of genetic testing. Students are exposed to cutting-edge molecular genetics research at NHGRI, providing them a rich training experience.

The Baltimore-Washington area provides diverse opportunities for students to learn more about the role of a genetic counselor in non-clinical positions (See: Non-Clinical Genetics Training Opportunities). These opportunities include commercial and academic laboratories and education- and advocacy-focused organizations. Because of its proximity to the U.S. capital, the program is able to provide rare opportunities for students to be involved in policy analysis and development (See: Genetics Policy Opportunities).

Evaluation of rotations

Preceptors evaluate each student's performance and students are asked to complete a self-evaluation of their progress. Additionally, students are asked to provide feedback to the clinical supervisor(s).

Who are the preceptors at clinical rotations?

Most of the preceptors for clinical rotations are board-certified genetic counselors. Those who are not (e.g., medical social workers, nurse practitioners, physicians, etc.) enhance the students' clinical training by exposing them to a variety of disciplines. The American Board of Genetic Counseling endorses this type of broad experience.


Summer rotations

Students may elect to complete their summer rotations in the Baltimore-Washington area or elsewhere. Many students choose to do a summer rotation outside of the United States (See: International Training Sites). An international summer rotation is an opportunity to see how genetics is practiced in another country and expand the profile of genetic counseling. For some, the summer is an opportunity to rotate at a genetics clinic near their home.

Research Training

Genetic counseling seeks evidence to guide practice. Because one of the major goals of the program is to train students to conduct social, behavioral and policy research in the field of genetic counseling, a thesis project is required for graduation. It is expected that the theses will be of publishable quality. The program includes coursework (See: Program of Study) that provides students with the training and experience necessary to develop, conduct and report on research.

Students are provided with a generous research budget to conduct their thesis project, as well as technical assistance. Program faculty have diverse backgrounds and are experienced in addressing research questions that are currently being asked in the field of genetic counseling.

There are a number of important areas of research, including but not limited to:

  • Assessment of client needs and expectations of clinical practice, methods for addressing needs and expectations, and the relationship to desirable client outcomes.
  • Effectiveness of genetic counseling interventions.
  • Evaluation of personal and shared decision making to use genetic technology or to act on results.
  • Impact of counseling on communication among family members and relationship dynamics.
  • Enhanced coping and adaptation of individuals and families at risk or affected with rare genetic conditions following genetic counseling.
  • Decision-making dynamics including the role and value of non-directiveness.
  • Client attitudes toward, and media presentation of, new genetic technologies and related ethical, medical and service delivery issues.
  • Efforts to reduce disparities in access to genetic testing and services for minority and traditionally under-served populations.

To begin to answer such questions, researchers with clinical experience in genetic counseling and expertise in social science research methods are needed. Training such researchers is a goal of this program.

Thesis Abstracts and Publications 1999-2015

Last updated: February 17, 2017