Experiential Learning

The Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling Practice-Based Competencies require that students experience a broad range of activities to learn about the profession, better prepare themselves to become part of it, and familiarize themselves with the lives of patients, their families, and their communities. To achieve these competencies, students attend and participate in a variety of professional activities as degree requirements.

Genetics Rounds

Every Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. in the Abramson Research Center (on Zoom during COVID-19 restrictions), the clinical genetics faculty at the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia attend a seminar which is facilitated on a rotating basis by each clinical genetics service. A schedule of presenters and topics is circulated about one month in advance. Genetic counseling students attend Rounds, and may even be asked to present interesting clinical cases they participated in during their clinical internships.  The cases they see presented and the weekly discussion-board follow ups give students a wealth of knowledge to take into their careers.

Lectures and Conferences 

Genetic counseling students are able to attend many conferences, invited lectures and special programs hosted at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania each year, including:

Meaghan Snell presents poster at Basser Conference
Student Meaghan Snell presents her thesis research at the Basser Conference
  • Annual Friedreich’s Ataxia Symposium presented by the Friedreich’s Ataxia Center of Excellence at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • BRCA1, BRCA2 and Beyond: An Update on Hereditary Cancer sponsored by the Basser Center for BRCA at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center, the first comprehensive center for the research, treatment, and prevention of BRCA-related cancers
  • Lectures from LEND, the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities fellowship program at CHOP.  The program is dedicated to improving the systems of care for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and chronic health conditions.  Two genetic counseling students each year will be LEND fellows, and all genetic counseling students are invited to the open lectures.
  • Precision Mitochondrial Medicine: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Updates on Mitochondrial Disease Diagnostics, Therapeutics and Subspecialty Care.  This annual symposium is presented by the Mitochondrial Medicine Frontier Program at CHOP. 
  • Focus on the Fetus, a biennial conference sponsored by the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, home of a multidisciplinary team with the world's greatest collective experience treating fetuses and infants with congenital anomalies.
    Students at the NSGC conference in Salt Lake City
    Students with Lisa Kessler at the NSGC Conference in Salt Lake City
  • Deciphering Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome, a biennial conference presented by the Division of Human Genetics and the Cancer Predisposition Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Second-year students are encouraged to attend the National Society of Genetic Counselors Annual Conference. The program covers the cost of registration for the second year students and works to provide stipends to those students who are presenting their work at national meetings.

In addition, many students attend local professional genetics meetings sponsored by the Pennsylvania Association of Genetic Counselors, the Human Genetics Association of New Jersey, and the Philadelphia Genetics meeting.

Standardized Patient Sessions

Students participate in Standardized Patient sessions at the Experiential Learning and Assessment Center at the Perelman School of Medicine, which has been providing trainees in diverse health care professions the highest quality education using Standardized Patients for more than twenty years. The Center works with the program to create custom genetic counseling sessions, giving students a consistent, authentic and measurable learning experience as they refine their counseling skills.   

Professional Development Seminar for Genetic Counselors

The genetic counseling profession is rapidly evolving with the development of new diagnostic technologies and treatments, and knowledge of the alternative ways in which counselors may work increases a student’s ability to successfully pursue a career. Members of the genetics community from Philadelphia and the surrounding area provide lectures describing the current state of the profession. Selected topics include genetic counseling in a laboratory setting, new treatment options for genetic disease, and how to manage a clinical genetic counseling practice with issues surrounding billing reimbursement and credentialing. In addition, students prepare essays reflecting on the essential components of their ideal jobs and develop a curriculum vitae and cover letters for their job search. This seminar also helps prepare students for the demands of the genetic counseling profession by focusing on emotional well-being through a process group facilitated by a professional counselor.

Genetic Counseling Rounds

Second year students engage in weekly discussion of clinical cases and recent journal literature.  Presenting clinical and scientific information for group discussion in clinic conferences and patient rounds is an important role for genetic counselors.  This seminar provides these experiences in a supportive environment and thus facilitates skill building in this area, while introducing students to a broad range of diagnoses and methods of managing a case.  Discussions of case organization and tailoring a presentation to a specific patient is another aspect of this seminar.  

Journal Club

Each week a different student selects and presents an article of relevance to the genetic counseling community. These are formal presentations, and the feedback provided by the faculty and other students helps the students gain experience and confidence in making professional presentations, stay current on important literature in the field, and develop skills in evaluating research methodology and statistics