Human Genetics Courses

Home of the nation’s first—and still the largest—program in genetic counseling, Sarah Lawrence College has trained more genetic counselors than any other academic institution in the world. This celebrated program integrates education, health care, and humanism as it prepares genetic counselors to work in a growing, dynamic field.

Students learn that the field of genetics now includes genetic disorders ranging from rare diseases to prevalent conditions such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. Each student is placed at a total of seven sites from a wealth of fieldwork options at nearly 50 centers in the New York City area. As the hub of international growth in the field, the College recruits to its faculty top scientists, physicians, and genetic counselors from the area’s genetic centers and brings leading researchers and speakers to campus weekly to discuss current topics. Each student also develops a community outreach project, targeting an audience to educate about a particular set of relevant genetic information.

Human Genetics 2020-2021 Courses

Advanced Human Genetics

Graduate Seminar—Fall

The Advanced Human Genetics course provides students with a foundation in human genetics in preparation for their clinical training and other course work in the genetic counseling program. The course is organized into lectures, self-study activities, and team-based learning. The team-based learning and other student-driven activities enable students to apply, in a clinically relevant way, information presented in the lectures and readings.

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Cancer Genetics

Graduate Seminar—Spring

The Cancer Genetics course provides students with an understanding of cancer genetic counseling through case-based study of clinical services. Students are introduced to the anatomy and physiology of affected organs, screening modalities, and treatment options; become familiar with the pathology and cancer genetic counseling; interpret pedigrees and utilize cancer risk models; understand testing criterion, options, and interpretation of results; and explore the psychosocial aspects of hereditary cancer syndromes.

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Case Management Practicum

Graduate Seminar—Spring

The Case Management Practicum utilizes a standardized patient model to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate and assess their skill levels in competencies necessary for the practice of genetic counseling. Students participate in prepared role-playing exercises, followed by class discussion and feedback. The course structure allows students to demonstrate competence in key skills, assess their own strengths and weaknesses and those of their peers, and formulate a plan for addressing areas needing improvement.

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Clinical Genomics

Graduate Seminar—Spring

The Clinical Genomics course builds upon topics covered in Advanced Human Genetics. Early, current, and future uses of genomic technologies are covered, especially as they apply to clinical care. Students develop critical thinking skills related to testing strategies and genomic data interpretation, with a focus on Whole Exome Sequencing variant interpretation. The course also explores the psychosocial, ethical, and legal factors associated with genomic testing. Students apply their learning to various case examples.

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Clinical Pediatric Genetics

Graduate Seminar—Spring

Clinical Pediatric Genetics provides students with an introduction to the basic vocabulary, case scenarios, and genetic counseling issues encountered in a pediatric genetics session. Emphasis is on understanding the previous medical records, symptoms, and physical signs needed to construct the targeted questioning and differential diagnosis. The course structure includes readings, lectures, and group discussions.

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TBA

Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing: Past, Present and Future

Graduate Seminar—Fall

Direct-to-consumer genetic testing is a fast-growing and expanding marketplace. Many assume that DTC options will play a big role in integrating genetics into society, for better and worse. Historically, clinical providers of genetic medicine have cast a cold eye on the commercial companies selling unmediated access to genetic testing, as have government regulators. Today, most positions are more nuanced and the types of testing that are on offer are more varied. Using lecture, case studies and guest speakers, we will examine a variety of the tests and modes of access often lumped together in the DTC bucket, and consider the risks and benefits of online access to genetic testing, the regulatory options, and the role that genetic counselors should play in pre- and post-test counseling for DTC results.

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Disability Service Learning

Graduate Seminar—Fall

The Disability Service Learning course and practicum broadly covers contemporary topics of disability. Through guest speakers, panels, and internships, students gain an understanding of the impact of disability; improved communication skills with individuals, families, and service providers; and an increased awareness of the contributions that genetic counseling can make to persons with or without disabilities.

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Embryology

Graduate Seminar—Fall

The Embryology course considers the normal development of the human embryo from the earliest stages to birth. The course focuses on the stages, developmental mechanisms, and organ systems with the greatest potential for improving the understanding of the pathophysiology of congenital abnormalities and malformation syndromes. Students learn from discussion and written analysis of clinical cases, as well as from didactic material.

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Ethics

Graduate Seminar—Fall

The Ethics course covers the principles of medical ethics and their application in the field of genetic counseling. The significance of current and historical examples of eugenics and how past abuses affect the clinical practices of genetic medicine today are explored. Through a combination of lecture and discussion, the class reviews hot-button issues such as abortion, “designer babies,” and genetic engineering. The course also covers legal and ethical dilemmas with specific relevance to genetics, including genetic discrimination, the genetic testing of minors, and the extent of a genetic clinician’s responsibility to biological relatives.

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Fundamentals of Genetic Counseling I

Graduate Seminar—Fall

Fundamentals of Genetic Counseling I introduces students to skills necessary for genetic counseling. The course is structured around key components of a genetic counseling encounter. Readings provide foundational knowledge of relevant concepts, and class discussions encourage the comparison of different perspectives and applications. Course instructors demonstrate each skill, and students then engage in skill development through role-play, peer feedback, and self-assessment.

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Fundamentals of Genetic Counseling II

Graduate Seminar—Spring

Building on the skill set of Fundamentals of Genetic Counseling I, Fundamentals of Genetic Counseling II develops skills relevant to psychosocial assessment and interventions. Focus is placed on first exploring patient characteristics and concerns, then utilizing appropriate counseling skills to respond in a patient-centered way. Course activities include discussion, small-group activities, demonstration, and role-play with peer feedback.

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Interviewing and Counseling-Based Methods in Genetic Counseling

Graduate Seminar—Fall and Spring

This course is offered in both fall and spring semesters.

This Interviewing and Counseling-Based Methods in Genetic Counseling course provides exploration and practice of counseling skills applied to the genetic counseling practice. Counseling skills are applied to genetic counseling scenarios, as well as to professional interactions. Students learn to utilize different counseling models, identify counseling strategies that can be applied to specific patient scenarios, and apply motivational interviewing in a genetic counseling session to facilitate patient management.

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Medical Genetics Seminar I, II

Graduate Seminar—Fall and Spring

The Medical Genetics Seminar courses introduce students to topics relevant to clinical genetic counseling. Experts in the field lecture on topics ranging from significant genetic conditions and syndromes to current testing options. Students learn from and interact with authorities in their respective fields, gaining an in-depth understanding of the genetic conditions covered in the course and related issues that they will later encounter in their careers.

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Pathophysiology

Graduate Seminar—Fall

The Pathophysiology course provides students with an understanding of human anatomy and physiology of most of the major organ systems. Through course readings and oral presentations, students learn to identify, synthesize, and understand physiological mechanisms of the human body; explain a genetic condition from a physiological standpoint; and identify and access information resources pertinent to physiological diseases.

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Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling

Graduate Seminar—Fall

The Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling I course covers topics relevant to professional development and career management, including resumé development, interviewing, membership in professional organizations, and billing and reimbursement. The course structure include guest speakers, panel discussions, and small-group work.

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Public Health Genomics

Graduate Seminar—Spring

The Public Health Genomics course introduces students to the epidemiologic approach to genetic disease, counseling, and testing. The course examines the applications of genetic information and genetic counseling in both public health and international contexts. Students learn to identify various types of study design, including their strengths and weaknesses. By working through case studies and course exercises, students learn key genetic epidemiologic and public health concepts and consider application of those to the development and implementation of new initiatives.

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Reproductive Genetics

Graduate Seminar—Spring

The Reproductive Genetics course prepares students for clinical practice in reproductive genetic counseling. Using sample cases, students offer and interpret genetic testing and develop case management skills. Students will be expected to read and present peer-reviewed journal articles and utilize core genetics databases. Course structure includes lectures, interactive learning activities, and case discussions.

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Research Methods

Graduate Seminar—Spring

The Research Methods course serves as an introduction to the research process, with multiple connections to the development of thesis projects. Students are encouraged to become better consumers of the scientific literature—including the use of search engines, a reference program, and critical reading skills—in the construction of a literature review as a first step toward study design and publication. The course includes a review of qualitative and quantitative research models; development of surveys, focus groups, and questionnaires; and the basics of data analysis and working in SPSS.

Special Topics: Gestalt Genetics: Health Humanities for Genetic Counselors

Graduate Seminar—Fall

Genetic counseling is a complicated, bifurcated profession – one that forges connections between technological sciences and lived experiences of risk, health, and illness. In pursuit of expertise, we are steeped in complex concepts, mechanisms, regulations, specifications – part and parcel to the work of health professionals. The science is intricate and engrossing, yes… but what about the care and concern we provide for others, curiosity for individuals and the sense they make of the genetic challenges they face, the value of our work for ourselves, those we serve, and humanity? Health humanities is a discipline which enables us to glean such insights by interacting with the arts and humanities; by reading, writing, watching, and moving, we’ll mine for meaning and understanding, wisdom and wit. This course aims to build empathic understanding and critical consideration of genetic counseling practice by exploring genetics, genetic illness, and the profession of genetic counseling as conveyed through books, films, and other media.

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Understanding Barriers and Building Alliance in Genetic Counselling

Graduate Seminar—Fall

In even brief and time limited work, establishing a mutually respectful and empathic working alliance can be key to the effective delivery of counselling. In practice, each individual carries the context of their larger experience into the consulting room, which may present barriers to their engagement in counselling. Through considering factors that may impact an individual’s engagement - such as their relational experiences; spiritual beliefs; experiences with medical care; family and personal values; trauma histories; experiences with racial, socio-economic and/or gender discrimination, etc. - students will consider ways of building a mutually constructed working alliance through which each client is best able to engage in the content of genetic counselling.

In this elective seminar, students will explore cognitive, emotional, cultural and socio-economic factors that may impact an individual's engagement in genetic counselling, as well as psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, and mindfulness based approaches to building an empathic and productive working alliance. Relevant history, theory, and evidence-based research will be examined and explored through relevant case studies. Students will have the opportunity to formulate case summaries considering contextual factors and working alliance.

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