Monday, July 27, 2015

As the availability of and demand for genetic testing continues to rise, more genetic counselors are needed to assist patients in interpreting their test results. The Iowa Institute of Human Genetics (IIHG) at the University of Iowa is helping to grow the ranks of genetic counselors by providing a summer internship for undergraduate students interested in pursuing this emerging career opportunity.

The IIHG Summer Internship Program, now in its third year, allows interns to explore various career opportunities in genetic counseling. The eight-week program accepts three undergraduate students each year, and the interns gain hands-on experience under the direction of genetic counselors at UI Hospitals and Clinics in a variety of specialty clinics, including neurogenetics, cancer, women’s health, pediatrics, cardiology, and personalized genomic medicine.

"There is a growing demand for genetic counselors across all medical specialties as they aid in the delivery of precision medicine," says Colleen Campbell, IIHG assistant director.

The Iowa Institute of Human Genetics is hosting an information event on Personalized Genomic Medicine: Applying to Genetic Counseling Graduate Programs.

WHEN: 2-4 p.m. Wednesday, July 29

WHERE: Eckstein Medical Research Building, Rm. 283 (Seebohm Conference Room) 431 Newton Road, Iowa City

WHAT: An information session for undergraduate and graduate students and academic advisers who want to learn more about applying to genetic counseling training programs. The event will include a panel discussion with genetic counselors and breakout sessions for participants to speak with individual panelists.

Visit the College of Medicine website for more information and to register.

Genetic counselors have a master's degree in genetic counseling and must pass the American Board of Genetic Counseling exam. Nationally, only 32 programs offer master's degrees and are highly competitive; each receives around 200 applications and accepts only three to 25 students annually.

The IIHG internship is proving to be an important stepping-stone for students interested in following this career path. All three of the 2014 IIHG Genetic Counseling interns were accepted into Genetic Counseling Master’s degree programs, and begin school in a month. Three more students are completing the internship this summer.

"The internship strives to provide students with a similar experience as they will have during their first graduate school clinical rotation. This experience is something we can provide them to assist in the application process [to graduate school] as well as successful completion of their master’s degree in genetic counseling," Campbell says. "We hope the experience they have here will encourage our interns to return to Iowa to work as genetic counselors after they finish graduate school."

The IIHG 2014 interns accepted into genetics graduate programs are:

  • Erin Davidson from Iowa City, who received a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Colorado State University. Davidson will attend the Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics at Sarah Lawrence College.
  • Katie Nelson from St. Charles, Illinois, who received a bachelor's degree in biological sciences (with minors in chemistry and psychology) from Missouri University of Science and Technology in May. Nelson will go to Indiana University Medical Center to complete the Program in Genetic Counseling.
  • Lillian Howard of Clutier, Iowa, who received a bachelor's degree in genetics (with a minor in psychology) from Iowa State University. Howard will enter the Master of Science Program in Genetic Counseling at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The IIHG received 58 applications from around the world for the 2015 genetic counseling internship program, which started in June. The three interns who were selected are Sarah Azam of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa; Joshua Fortman of Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa; and Mary-Kayt Jones of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.