Clinical experience is integral to overall graduate training in genetic counseling. Genetic Medicine graduate students become involved with the clinical practice early in their training so that they gain as much experience as possible during the program. We pride ourselves on the breadth and diversity of our clinical rotation sites, both in terms of clinical specialty and patient population. For those who wish to develop fluency in medical Spanish, emphasis can be placed on clinical rotations where Spanish is the predominant language.
Over the summer, students have the opportunity to complete full-time rotations in or outside of Chicago, and several students have even had summer internships abroad.
The first quarter of the program focuses on preparing students for rotations through classes, participation in patient review and journal club, role-playing, and observation of genetic counseling sessions. Beginning in the second quarter, students rotate through six five-week rotations at hospitals and clinics in the Chicagoland area. All students will have one to two rotations in each of the following areas:
- Cancer and adult genetic counseling: Students learn to elicit comprehensive cancer family histories, perform cancer risk assessment using a variety of statistical models, and counsel patients regarding cancer family history. Students also see patients with other adult-onset conditions, like Huntington disease. They become familiar with ordering genetic tests and interpreting results. Students may also attend tumor board conferences and present cases to oncologists and other specialists.
- Pediatric and general genetic counseling: Students learn to apply clinical dysmorphology skills, medical history-taking, and evaluation of developmental delay in general pediatric genetics clinics. They also participate in specialty clinics for children with genetic conditions such as 22q11.2 deletions, neurofibromatosis, skeletal dysplasias, Marfan syndrome, and metabolic disorders. Students are frequently involved in state newborn screening follow-up.
- Prenatal counseling: Students learn to counsel patients in high-risk obstetrics clinics for a wide variety of preconception and prenatal indications, including amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling, ultrasound abnormalities, maternal serum screening, carrier screening, and family history. Students facilitate decision-making regarding pregnancy options and provide patients with psychosocial support and resources.
In addition to the rotations above, each student will have the opportunity to participate in one or more specialty genetics clinics:
- Advocacy: Imerman Angels or other advocacy locations. The purpose of the advocacy rotation is to expose genetic counseling graduate students to the components and system of non-profit organizations (NPO) in the healthcare arena. It is the aim for students to acquire knowledge and experiences that contribute to the successful execution of a mission in a community setting.
- Cardiology: Students counsel families with all inherited forms of cardiovascular disease, including familial dilated cardiomyopathy and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, sudden cardiac death, Marfan syndrome, and Long QT syndrome. Students will also see patients with muscular dystrophies with cardiac involvement, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy. In addition, students consult patients in-house as necessary and participate in consenting patients for ongoing research projects.
- Cardiomyopathies at Northwestern Memorial Hospital: This rotation allows the student to participate in cardiovascular research and clinics specifically for families at risk for cardiovascular disease and other cardiomyopathies.
- Industry at various locations: Students can either rotate at GeneDx, Myriad or another company that agrees to accept students. Students are exposed to the variety of roles a counselor can serve within an industry setting, including results interpretation, professional education, sales, marketing and management.
- Laboratory at various locations: These rotations will focus on the student gaining knowledge of the wide variety of tasks/skills involved in a laboratory genetic counselor environment including lab utilization management, provider support surrounding test navigation, result interpretation, variant classification, report writing, and facilitating lab-provider communication. In addition, the student will gain further exposure to laboratory techniques/methodologies and the business/financial intricacies of genetic testing (e.g. insurance, billing).
- Neurogenetics: Students participate in a multidisciplinary adult neuromuscular clinic, working closely with neurologists, physical therapists, speech therapists, and cardiologists. Students also counsel adults at risk for inherited dementias, such as early-onset Alzheimer disease and Huntington disease. Students learn the role of genetic counselors in large research studies as they help recruit patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
- Pediatric hematology/oncology: Students counsel families regarding a wide range of hematological conditions, including sickle cell anemia, thalassemias, hemophilia, and other hematological genetic conditions. The clinic also provides exposure to childhood cancers like retinoblastoma, and students gain experience with newborn screening for sickle cell disease.
- Policy: This rotation is for students who have a very specific interest in policy. Students will be exposed to many different issues in genomics and precision medicine, while gaining a perspective on policy and public health.
- Psychiatric: The purpose of the psychiatric rotation is to expose the genetic counseling graduate students to the expanding field of psychiatric genetics and different counseling strategies used in a multidisciplinary setting.
- Teratology: Students research and respond to inquiries regarding exposure to medications, chemicals, or infections during pregnancy. This rotation gives students the opportunity to independently research rare exposures and provide information and advice based on their own findings.
Local clinical rotation sites include:
- ACL Laboratories
- Adventist Hinsdale
- Advocate Christ Hospital
- Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital
- Advocate Lutheran Hospital
- Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
- Cadence Health
- Chicago Genetic Consultants
- DuPage Medical Group
- Edward Hospital
- Imerman Angels
- Insight Medical Genetics
- Loyola University Medical Center
- Lurie Laboratories
- Mercy Hospital
- NorthShore University HealthSystem
- Northwestern Medicine
- Reproductive Genetic Institute
- Rush University Medical Center
- Stroger Cook County Hospital
- University of Chicago Hospitals
- University of Illinois at Chicago