The genetics revolution, the subsequent evolution of genomics and their implications for public health demand the education of a new breed of professionals. Sarah Lawrence College, a leader in innovative programs for health professionals, has launched a new graduate-level program in Public Health Genetics/Genomics.
“There is an urgent need to train professionals who can translate genetic research into practice in this burgeoning area,” said Rachel Grob, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at Sarah Lawrence. “The advent of DNA technologies has vastly broadened the field from attention to genetics – the study of single genes responsible for specific diseases or medical conditions – to the much larger arena of genomics, which includes research on disorders involving multiple genes or gene interaction with environmental factors. These developments have many implications for public health,” Grob said.
The new Sarah Lawrence program, which offers a certificate or continuing education credits, is the first such program in the country specifically designed for professionals who work in the health care field. While a number of schools of public health have begun to incorporate genetics into their curriculums, and about one-third of the genetic counseling programs have a course devoted to public health, Sarah Lawrence College is the first to launch a full certificate program for professionals concerned with issues at the intersection of genetics/genomics and public health.
Students can take all of the courses offered and earn a certificate or select only the courses that interest them and receive continuing education credits. To accommodate program participants’ busy schedules, classes take place on campus over short intensive periods, and students can start the program at various times during the year.
“This program is the perfect complement to my MPH in Health Policy,” said Jennifer Kraszewski, a student in the program who has completed the first series of classes. The first group of five modules, one each day, were held June 5-9. “We had the rare opportunity to build relationships with national experts who literally spent eight hours in class speaking freely with us about what happens at the intersection of public health, genetics/genomics and policy.”
The program includes lectures by and discussions with guest speakers from government, non-profit organizations, and the health care industry, and offers students valuable networking opportunities to learn about jobs and developments in the field.
With greatly expanded genetic screening programs (for example, New York State screened all newborns for 11 conditions in 2002, increasing to 46 conditions in 2006) serious ethical, legal and social questions are emerging. Issues the program will address include the uses of genetic information and the challenges for public policy and programs; safeguarding the public; educating consumers, providers and the general population; and the challenges of translating genomic information into health care practices that are useful to individuals and communities.
“Professionals trained in genetics/genomics and public health will be increasingly useful in a variety of settings, including health care institutions, public health departments, insurance companies and industry, as these employers face increasing pressure to assure that care systems consider the effects of the new genetics on individuals,” said Grob. “Equally important are the roles these professionals will play in shaping public policy.”
The next series of classes, takes place September 27–30. Applications are due by August 31. To download an application form or for more information about the program, visit the PHG site, call (914) 395 2371 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.