Genetic counseling program receives accreditation

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | February 14, 2019

Image with caption: Holly Zimmerman

Holly Zimmerman

UNMC's new master's program in genetic counseling has been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling, according to founding director Holly Zimmerman.

It is the state's first and only accredited genetic education program in a profession with a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics-projected 29 percent future growth rate.

The two-year master's degree program is a unique partnership between UNMC's College of Allied Health Professions and its Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI), which does groundbreaking work in genetics and employs most of the genetic counselors who see patients at several clinical sites throughout Nebraska. The program will enroll its inaugural class of eight students in fall 2019.

The genetic counseling education program also announced:

  • Omar Abdul-Rahman, M.D. will serve as the program's medical director. Dr. Abdul-Rahman is professor and director of genetic medicine at MMI.
  • Sara Fisher will serve as assistant program director. She will split her duties between the academic program and clinical services at MMI, where she has been a prenatal genetic counselor for 14 years.

UNMC's unique partnership model will mean Nebraska genetic counseling students will get the best of both worlds, Zimmerman said.

"The collaboration between the College of Allied Health Professions and MMI brought together some immensely talented and committed individuals," said Karoly Mirnics, M.D., Ph.D., executive director of MMI.

"The partnership has already proven to be extraordinarily productive and rewarding, as evidenced by this latest milestone," added Kyle Meyer, Ph.D., dean of the College of Allied Health Professions.

Genetic counselors are professionals with training in both genetics and psychosocial sciences.

"We are translators of genetic information and truly enjoy teaching others," Zimmerman said. "As we discover that more and more diseases have a genetic component, we are finding our genetic knowledge and education skills extremely useful in an expanding array of settings. This includes partnering with specialties like cardiology and neurology as well as working with insurance companies."

She lauded Nebraska's current genetic counselors for having paved the way.

She also noted that future genetic counselors will be in high demand.

Several community health organizations, including Blue Cross & Blue Shield, Boys Town National Research Hospital, Children's Hospital & Medical Center, Methodist Health System, and Nebraska Medicine are supporting the creation of the program and have offered to provide clinical education experiences for its students.

With financial support from clinical partners and funds from the College of Allied Health Professions and MMI, the program required no additional state funds and is projected to be self-sustaining at full implementation at year five.

The accreditation announcement will allow the genetic counseling program to participate in the national admissions match day in April.

For more on the program click here.

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Vicki vincent
February 15, 2019 at 5:02 PM

Congratulations Holly. Your future students will have a great teacher and mentor.

Nicole Hackendahl
February 15, 2019 at 10:16 AM

How exciting!!!!!!

Lisa Bartenhagen
February 14, 2019 at 12:03 PM

Congratulation Holly. Wonderful news.

Sue Windmill
February 14, 2019 at 11:11 AM

Congrats Holly and Omar!

Kim Corum
February 14, 2019 at 10:49 AM

Congratulations Holly and Sara!

Joanne Johnson
February 14, 2019 at 9:58 AM

What great news! Congratulations!

Hilary Zimmerman
February 14, 2019 at 9:11 AM

Good job Holly! So proud of your efforts and so happy for UNMC.

Annie Wildermuth
February 14, 2019 at 8:45 AM

Way to go, Holly! This is really exciting.

Shelly Nielsen
February 14, 2019 at 8:41 AM

I am so excited that we are able to offer this specialized training in Nebraska and appreciate that Holly and Sara will be guiding the program! Congratulations!

Stephanie J
February 14, 2019 at 8:30 AM

Congratulations, Dr. Zimmerman!

Rebecca Rae Anderson
February 14, 2019 at 7:56 AM

An important landmark for a hard-working and dedicated crew. Kudos!

Fran Higgins
February 14, 2019 at 7:12 AM

Woohoo, Holly! Congratulations!