NU Regents approve master's degree in genetic counseling

August 11, 2017

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There are only 37 accredited genetic counseling education programs in the U.S. - none in Nebraska. Meanwhile, the workforce demand for this unique profession continues to accelerate both locally and nationally.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center has stepped forward to meet this demand.

The University of Nebraska Board of Regents today approved UNMC’s proposal to create a master’s degree in genetic counseling.

Genetic counselors are key members of health care teams, especially with the increasing knowledge of genetics and genetic testing. The profession blends art and science - technical genetic knowledge and precise medical diagnosis - in combination with the dissemination of this information in a sensitive, empathetic manner.

The program was developed through an innovative partnership between the UNMC College of Allied Health Professions (CAHP), UNMC’s Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI), and a number of community partners including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, Boys Town National Research Hospital, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, Methodist Health System and Nebraska Medicine.

The program will be housed in the CAHP, which also will grant the degree. MMI will provide clinical experiences and MMI geneticists and genetic counselors will serve as faculty. Most of the genetic counselors who see patients at several clinical sites throughout Nebraska are employed at MMI.

The clinical partners offered crucial support in the form of clinical education experiences and funding support through the first five years of the program to facilitate start-up.

"Our community is fiercely loyal, passionate and committed to providing the highest caliber of patient care," said Karoly Mirnics, M.D., Ph.D., director of MMI and the Hattie B. Munroe Endowed Professor. "Our shared vision allowed us to step over perceived institutional boundaries to partner to achieve a common goal. Together we achieved something amazing that will impact lives for generations to follow."

Kyle Meyer, Ph.D., dean of the CAHP, said his college is honored to join MMI’s decades-long commitment to genetic counseling.

"The program is a legacy to the late Dr. Warren Sanger, former director of clinical genetics at MMI, whose vision shaped its development," Dr. Meyer said. "The unparalleled teamwork that created the program is a fitting tribute to a man known for his generous and collaborative spirit."  

With financial support from the clinical partners, and funds from the CAHP and MMI, the program required no additional state funds and is projected to be self-sustaining at full implementation at year five. The [KM1] 24-month master’s program projects to enroll 10 students annually to start, with full ongoing enrollment set for 20 students.

Upon approval by the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education, UNMC will begin recruitment for a program director and seek accreditation through the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling.

 [KM1]This was the proposed curriculum and may change when we get a director... the length of the program, however will still be two years.

We are Nebraska Medicine and UNMC. Our mission is to lead the world in transforming lives to create a healthy future for all individuals and communities through premier educational programs, innovative research and extraordinary patient care.

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