Clinical Education and Fieldwork

More than 130 experienced genetic counselors work with the University of Pennsylvania MSGC program to provide expert clinical education to students in the program.

Clinical work begins in the first semester with observational placements and progresses in each of the five semesters to performance of more complex and independent clinical responsibilities.  

The program leadership carefully considers students’ past experiences, knowledge gaps, learning styles, and interests in matching them with clinical placements.  The number of clinical supervisors and clinical settings allow students to follow tailored pathways through the program.

The First Year Internships – GENC 6700 

These experiential courses expose genetic counseling students to the genetic counselor’s role in different settings. During the first year of the program, students have three distinct fieldwork experiences including:

  1. observations with genetic counselors in clinical practice
  2. rotations in a laboratory setting working closely with laboratory genetic counselors
  3. placements in a research, industry or advocacy capacity with a specific organization or research protocol.

Since this is the first exposure to these settings the experience is primarily observational, but as students near the end of each placement, they are encouraged to take on a more active role. During the first year, students attend their internships once a week. 

The Second Year Clinical Internships – GENC 6800

During the second year of the program, students have four placements in genetics clinics, with a minimum of 20 days in each. Students attend these clinical internships two to three times a week, progressing to more participatory roles in each of four successive clinical internships. 

Students have at least one placement in each of the following settings: general genetics, reproductive genetics, cancer genetics, and a specialty clinic. All students participate in pediatric, prenatal, and cancer placements.

The fourth clinical internship will be an elective experience providing students with opportunities to see diverse patient populations at the many specialty clinics at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and CHOP, including

  • the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment
  • pediatric hereditary cancer
  • mitochondrial and biochemical genetics
  • adult medical genetics
  • adult neurogenetics
  • cardiovascular genetics
Photo of genetic counselors from CHOP and Penn on spiral staircase
Genetic Counselors from the Section of Genetic Counseling at CHOP and Penn

Individualized clinical opportunities at some of the nation's premier healthcare facilities allow students to broaden their educational experience beyond traditional clinics to explore medical subspecialties, health care management, and diverse genetic counseling roles.

Through their clinical training students have exposure to cases representing a wide range of diagnoses and indications seen in a clinical genetics practice and collect at least 50 participatory encounters to satisfy the ACGC requirement. Students are supervised by certified genetic counselors with at least one year of experience, and typically graduate with well over 100 cases.  By their final clinical internship, students will feel confident to manage a case from start to finish with minimal supervision, drawing upon the basic competencies learned through the program. 

Penn Medicine Logo
Click here for a list of clinical internship sites at Penn Medicine.
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Click here for a list of clinical internships at CHOP