Human Genetics Courses

Home of the nation’s first—and still the largest—program in genetic counseling, Sarah Lawrence has trained more genetic counselors than any other academic institution in the world. This celebrated program integrates education, healthcare, 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. At the hub of international growth in the field, the College recruits top scientists, physicians, and genetic counselors to its faculty 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.

2018-2019 Courses

Human Genetics

Research Methods

Graduate Seminar—Spring

The Research Methods course serves as an introduction to the thesis process, which culminates in the writing of a thesis manuscript in the second year. 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.

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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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Public Health Genomics

Graduate Seminar—Spring

The Public Health Genomics course introduces students to the epidemiologic approach to genetic disease, genetic 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.

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Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling II

Graduate Seminar—Fall

The Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling II course is an extension of the Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling I course. Topics include scientific writing, expanded roles of genetic counselors, cultural competency, genetic counseling models, clinical supervision, résumé development and job interviewing, and billing and reimbursement. Course structure includes guest speakers, panel discussions, and small-group work.

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Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling I

Graduate Seminar—Fall

The Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling I course is an introduction to professional issues relevant to the genetic counseling profession. Students discuss formative documents related to promoting the genetic counseling profession, standards for training and practice, and standards for professional behavior; learn to provide professional and public educational activities; and gain an appreciation for the role of clinical supervision.

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Pathophysiology

Graduate Seminar—Fall

The Pathophysiology course provides students with an understanding of human physiology, beginning with the cell and principles of cellular physiology and continuing through the study 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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Medical Genetics Seminar II

Graduate Seminar—Spring

The Medical Genetics Seminar II course builds upon the first-semester seminar by introducing 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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Medical Genetics Seminar I

Graduate Seminar—Fall

The Medical Genetics Seminar I course introduces 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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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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Interviewing and Counseling-Based Methods in Genetic Counseling

Graduate Seminar—Fall and Spring

This course is offered in both fall and spring semesters.

In the Interviewing and Counseling-Based Methods in Genetic Counseling course, students explore and practice counseling skills in the context of genetic counseling. Counseling skills are applied to genetic counseling scenarios, as well as to professional interactions. Students learn to utilize different counseling models as they relate to genetic counseling practice, 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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Grief, Loss, and Bereavement: Theory and Practice

Graduate Seminar—Fall and Spring

This course is offered in both fall and spring semesters.

The Grief, Loss, and Bereavement: Theory and Practice course provides theoretical constructs for understanding the personal and intrapersonal meanings of loss, as well as practical short-term interventions that facilitate healthy grief reactions for bereaved families. The course structure includes lectures, case studies, discussion, role-play, experiential exercises, videos, papers, and student projects. Special emphasis is placed upon the student’s own professional development as a grief/adaptation counselor through increased self-awareness.

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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 aims to develop skills relevant to psychosocial assessment and interventions. Focus is first placed on exploring patient characteristics and concerns and then on utilizing appropriate counseling skills to respond in a patient-centered way. Course activities include discussion, small-group activities, demonstrations, and role-play with peer feedback.

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Fundamentals of Genetic Counseling I

Graduate Seminar—Fall

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

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Ethics

Graduate Seminar—Spring

The Ethics course covers the principles of medical ethics and their application in the field of genetic counseling. The course explores the significance of current and historical examples of eugenics and how past abuses affect the clinical practices of genetic medicine today. 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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Emerging Genetic Counseling Specialties

Graduate Seminar—Fall

The Emerging Genetic Counseling Specialties course provides students with the knowledge and skills to provide genetic counseling services in emerging specialty areas before clinical training opportunities become readily available. Currently, the course examines the complexities of neurogenetic diseases and cardiovascular genetics in clinical practice. For each specialty, students develop knowledge and genetic counseling skills through lectures, case studies, and role-play.

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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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Disability Service Learning

Graduate Seminar—Fall

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

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Clinical Genomics

Graduate Seminar—Spring

The Clinical Genomics course builds upon topics covered in Advanced Human Genetics. Clinical Genomics covers early, current, and future uses of genomic technologies, 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 are able to apply their learning to various case examples.

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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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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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Biochemistry of Genetic Disease

Graduate Seminar—Fall

The Biochemistry of Genetic Disease course provides an overview of major inborn metabolic diseases. Emphasis is placed on modes of inheritance, recurrence risks, pathogenesis, screening options, diagnostic testing, natural history, treatment options, and psychosocial and genetic counseling implications. The course is conducted online through prerecorded lectures, reading assignments, and online discussion.

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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, team-based learning, and student presentations. 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.