Our program’s curriculum integrates the science of genetics and genomics with the knowledge, counseling, research and communication skills needed to ethically and effectively deliver genetic counseling services in diverse clinical settings. The first year is comprised primarily of didactic coursework and clinical observations. The second year is comprised primarily of fieldwork experiences and the capstone master’s research project. There is a required fieldwork experience during the summer between Year 1 and Year 2 of the program. Opportunities for learning about individual and family experiences with genetic conditions through first-hand accounts are incorporated throughout the curriculum via patient guest speakers, shadowing support groups and families, and fieldwork experiences.
Furthermore, because UCLA is situated in one of the most culturally rich regions in the country, our training program provides a unique opportunity for the students to gain experience in understanding the dynamics of multiculturalism and diversity. In class sessions we use case vignettes which highlight and value diverse perspectives and backgrounds. Students also benefit from simulations and role-playing which enable them to apply theories through work with virtual patients, and cross-cultural scenarios are incorporated into these practical exercises.
Training in ethical, legal, and social issues of genetic information is also integral to the program. Students are exposed to larger societal issues involved in genetic counseling in a variety of ways, including through readings and discussion, potential teaching apprenticeships, and opportunities available at UCLA such as the UCLA Ethics Center lectures.
Students will have access to a variety of supplemental activities to enrich their training, such as UCLA Genetics Case Conference, Genome Data Board, Departmental Grand Rounds/Seminar Series, UCLA Undiagnosed Diseases Network Clinical Site, Southern California Genetic Counseling Group, UCLA Human Genetics Academic Retreat, laboratory tours, special topics workshops, activities involving spending time with individuals or families with a genetic condition, participation in local support and bereavement groups, and venues for public speaking.
All students are required to take the core curriculum, consisting of didactic courses in medical genetics/genomics content, counseling skills, laboratory applications, and ethical, legal, and social issues in genetic counseling; fieldwork; capstone project; and supplementary activities. Students take a minimum of 12 units per quarter for a total of 75 units, including 16 required courses, independent research, and 5 fieldwork courses. 63 units must be graduate courses (200/400 series), 12 units are 596 courses. Together, these provide a foundation for an entry-level genetic counselor. Successful completion of the program fulfills the curricular and clinical training requirements for eligibility to sit for examination by the American Board of Genetic Counseling.
Visit the registrar's site for the Human Genetics Department’s course descriptions
Principles and Practice in Medical Genetics 1
This is the first course in a three quarter series course. Lectures focus on the medical approaches to clinical genetics. Topics include molecular basis of genetic disease, modes of inheritance, principles of cytogenetics and molecular technologies, disorders of chromosomes, and fundamentals of prenatal diagnosis and screening. The application of medical and genetic information to genetic counseling is addressed. The course utilizes lectures, problem based learning scenarios and examinations. Grand Rounds/Seminar series attendance is a required component of this course.
Principles and Practice in Medical Genetics 2
This is the second course in a three quarter series course. Lectures focus on the medical approaches to clinical genetics. Topics include cancer genetics, principles of mathematical and population genetics, multifactorial inheritance, risk assessment, teratology and dysmorphology. The application of medical and genetic information to genetic counseling is addressed. The course utilizes lectures, problem based learning scenarios and examinations. Grand Rounds/Seminar series attendance is a required component of this course.
Principles and Practice Medical Genetics 3
This is the third course in a three quarter series course. Lectures focus on the medical approaches to clinical genetics. Topics include overview of various pediatrics, adult onset and biochemical genetic disorders, newborn screening, and current treatments of genetic disorders. The application of medical and genetic information to genetic counseling is addressed. The course utilizes lectures, problem based learning scenarios and examinations. Grand Rounds/Seminar series attendance is a required component of this course.
Fundamental Genetic Counseling Skills
This course introduces students to the profession of genetic counseling and addresses basic genetic counseling skills and the structure of a genetic counseling session using didactic and active learning techniques, including role-plays, supplemented by activities in clinical settings. Topics include: history of the profession, theories of psychosocial counseling and its principles including the Reciprocal-Engagement Model of Genetic Counseling, active listening, verbal and non-verbal communication, empathy, how to ask questions, self-disclosure and self-involving skills, and structure of a genetic counseling session. Practical exercises and supplementary activities address constructing a genetic counseling session, contracting, obtaining family history, drawing and interpreting pedigrees, interviewing techniques, assessing level of patient and family understanding, case preparation, risk communication, development of educational materials, and referrals. General Genetics Case Conference attendance and clinic observations are required component of course.
Reproductive Genetics in Practice
Focus of the course is on reproductive genetic counseling. Reproductive topics include prenatal screening and prenatal diagnosis, invasive and non-invasive procedures, teratogens, ultrasound findings, carrier screening, infertility assessment, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, and in vitro fertilization, reproductive options. Practical exercises to include: case preparation, medical and family history analysis, risk assessment and counseling, differential diagnosis development, diagnostic testing selection (including analytic validity, clinical validity, and clinical utility of screening and diagnostic tests), results interpretation, patient education, and psychosocial counseling specific to the perinatal setting. Patients as guest speakers will provide patient perspective and experience. General Genetics Case Conference attendance and clinic observations are required component of course.
Specialty Genetics in Practice
Focus of the course is on cancer and adult genetics. Aspects of these disciplines in the context of genetic counseling will be explored. Practical exercises to include: case preparation, medical and family history analysis, risk assessment and counseling, differential diagnosis development, diagnostic testing selection, results interpretation, patient education, psychosocial counseling specific to cancer genetics and adult-onset genetics. Patients as guest speakers will provide patient perspective and experience.
Advanced Genetic Counseling Skills
This course focuses on advanced psychosocial topics in genetic counseling along with social and legal issues in genetics and genetic counseling. Topics to include family dynamics, the burden of disease, crisis intervention, dynamics of grief and bereavement, multicultural sensitivity, coping mechanisms, transference and countertransference, and disability organizations and advocacy. Practice exercises will include: role-playing in a range of advanced psychosocial situations, shadowing support groups and families, simulating patient full session under different scenarios including with interpreters and group presentations. Students required to have spent at least 4 hours visiting/observing/shadowing at least two resource clinics/centers and at least 4 hours observing bereavement group(s) in the year prior to course enrollment.
Professional Development in Genetic Counseling
This course focuses on professional development as a genetic counselor. The purpose is to prepare students to make the transition to practicing professionals in the areas of the job search, billing/reimbursement/insurance coverage, service delivery, professional relationships and boundaries, clinical supervision, developing effective presentations for varied audiences, self-advocacy, and other relevant areas to help them develop their individualized plan for continuing professional development after graduate school. This will be accomplished through lectures, discussion, interactive activities, projects and oral presentations. CV Development workshop and Clinical Supervision Workshop are required components of this course.
Foundations of Genomic Medicine
This course focuses on fundamental concepts in modern biology, with emphasis on implications and relevance to human genetic disease and integration of biology with mechanisms underlying disease development.
This course introduces students to the next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies, bioinformatics pipeline for analyzing NGS data, clinical interpretation of the variants using the ACMG guidelines, various databases used for variant interpretation, interpretation of exome clinical report, the process of communicating the results to patients and the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of personal genomics. This course is intended to provide hands-on laboratory-style experience to interpreting human exome/genome variants for genetics professionals and trainees. At the end of the course, trainees will have acquired the necessary background to understand the technical and analytical aspects of exome/genome test, make an informed decision about clinically relevant variants and communicate the results to the patient or patient’s family. Attendance at the weekly Genome Data Board meeting is required.
Foundations in Genetic Counseling Research
This is the first of a two-course series and includes an overview of the research process, including the literature review, research design, measurement methods, qualitative methods, and quantitative methods. This will include the theory and elements of a statistical analysis, data coding, data analysis tools and interpretation of statistical results. The students are introduced to the necessary tools to understand published research in genetic counseling and the foundations necessary for the design, conduct and interpretation of their Master’s Research Project. Students will also understand how to conduct human subjects research responsibly and understand the informed consent process.
Research Applications in Genetic Counseling
This is the second of a two-course series that will provide a practical hands-on approach to conducting research. This course will provide a more focused discussion on the specific aspects of study design and sampling, the elements of developing and using instruments to measure variables of interest, the criteria for systematic review of the literature, appropriate univariate and multivariate analyses, and interpretation and report writing. The course focuses on the skills students will need to develop and conduct their Master’s Research Projects and research in genetic counseling. Students will learn to conduct qualitative field research, including interviews and focus groups, design qualitative surveys, and apply their statistical skills to analyze data and interpret the results. In this course, students will brainstorm ideas for their Master’s Research Project, develop a research question and submit a research proposal for their final project.
Ethical, Legal, and Societal Topics in Genetic Counseling
Social, cultural, ethical, and legal issues in genetics and genetic counseling are discussed and analyzed through ethical principles that guide the conduct of health professionals. Students learn to recognize the ethical issues commonly encountered in genetic counseling and outline the steps involved in addressing an ethical dilemma.
Genetic Counseling Communication Seminar
This seminar addresses topics in communicating genetic counseling-related subject matter to diverse audiences using various communication modalities, with emphasis on crafting presentations for healthcare, public, and advocacy audiences. Seminar includes critically reading, reviewing, and discussing literature in context of medical genetics, health care delivery, medical management, genetic counseling, and genetics laboratory testing.
Clinical Applications of Cytogenetics and Molecular Techniques
This course will provide exposure to cytogenetics and molecular laboratory techniques to diagnose human genetic disorders. Topics include types of abnormalities seen in human genetic disorders, phenotypic consequences associated with these abnormalities, recurrence risk, uses and limitations of common cytogenetic and molecular technologies in clinical testing, current nomenclature, and written components of laboratory reports. Laboratory tours are included.
Responsible Conduct of Research in Humans
Discussion of current issues in responsible conduct of clinical research, including reporting of research, rigor and reproducibility, basis for authorship, issues in genetic research, principles and practice of research on humans, conflicts of interest, Institutional Review Board (IRB), and related topics.