Master of Public Health in Public Health Genetics and Master of Science in Genetic Counseling
University of Pittsburgh established the MPH in Public Health Genetics and MS in Genetic Counseling dual degree program in 2004, which was the first program of its kind to be offered to students pursuing a genetic counseling degree. The dual degree program enables students to build upon the clinical skills that they acquire through the Genetic Counseling Program to understand the importance of genetics, genomics, and genetic counseling in the field of public health.
Given the rapid expansion of available genetic and genomic testing, the current focus on precision medicine, and the increasing interest of national organizations, state public health offices, and hospitals in the application of genomics to public health, there is a growing need for professionals with skills in both disciplines. Graduates of the dual degree program are well-prepared to integrate public health genetics into clinical, research, public health, and industry settings. The dual degree program also benefits students by broadening their areas of expertise and career qualifications in other areas of public health including program development, evaluation, and policy.
There are a variety of options for completing the dual degree, which depend in part on the timing of the student entering the program. However, most students are able to complete the dual degree program in 22 months, which is one additional summer session beyond the typical completion time for the MS in Genetic Counseling degree program.
Applicants to the Dual MPH Public Health Genetics/MS Genetic Counseling degree must meet the admissions requirements of both degrees. There are several different pathways via which students can enter the dual degree program. The following outlines each of these pathways, the admissions process for each pathway, and typical program completion time:
Specific application instructions can be found here for SOPHAS and SOPHAS Express.
Dual Degree Program Curriculum
All required courses for both degrees must be taken by dual degree students, with the exception of PUBHLT 2011, Essentials of Public Health. Given that some of the curriculum overlaps, the dual degree requires the completion of 62 credits. In addition to completing all of the requirements for the MS in Genetic Counseling degree, students enrolled in the dual degree will take an additional seven courses and fulfill the MPH practicum and MPH essay requirements.
The schedule below illustrates one possible schedule that would allow students to complete the Dual Degree Program in 22 months. Schedules are discussed on an individual basis with the Program Directors of the MPH in Public Health Genetics and MS in Genetic Counseling Programs.
Thesis and Essay
Students in the dual degree program will complete both the thesis requirement for the MS in Genetic Counseling degree and the Essay requirement for the MPH in Public Health Genetics degree. Depending on the thesis and essay topics, sometimes these documents can be combined into one document comprising the student’s thesis project with additional background on public health genetics relevance and, at least, one additional, extensive chapter focusing on an application of public health genetics. The student’s thesis committee and the Program Director for the MPH in Public Health Genetics will work with the student to identify the additional components or topics that are needed to satisfy the MPH Essay requirement.
Recent Thesis-Essay projects of dual degree students include:
- Psychosocial Impact of Targeted Exome Sequencing on Parents of Chronically Ill Children (Combined)
- GenomeWide Association Studies of Childhood Bone Health (Combined)
- Prevalence of the Beta-S Gene and Sickle Cell Disease in India (Combined)
- Restoring Spermatogenesis: Lentiviral Gene Therapy for Male Infertility in Mice (Thesis) and Implementing Array Comparative Genomic Hybridization in Male Infertility Diagnostics (Essay)
Browse further titles in D-Scholarship the institutional repository for research output at the University of Pittsburgh.
Since entering the program, I've been impressed by the success of recent dual-degree graduates. Having both degrees gives you a special niche and allows you to carve out leadership positions for yourself where you can make an impact immediately after graduation"
- Katya (Class of 2015)
The dual degree program prepared me for my current role as both a traditional clinical pediatric genetic counselor and a public health educator. My public health degree has helped me take genetic counseling to a higher level by providing me with the skills to develop educational programs to raise awareness about genetic disorders outside the normal hospital/clinical setting."
- Aishwarya (Class of 2013)
My dual degree has allowed me to better anticipate the impact of emerging genetic technologies on clinical care and identify potential gaps in accessing genetic services. As a result, I am currently possibilities to update state legislation surrounding prenatal and preconception services to include developing genetic screening tests."
- Andrew (Class of 2011)
The Dual Degree Program prepares students for careers in a variety of settings including clinical genetic counseling, research, public health, and industry. Recent graduates of the Dual Degree Program have held the following positions:
- Genetic counselor and Community Outreach Organizer, Lurie Children's Hospital and Center for Jewish Genetics, Chicago
- Health Services Consultant 3 - Genetic Services Specialist, Washington State Health Department
- Quality control study evaluation the identification, family history collection, and genetic counseling referral of individuals at risk for Lynch Syndrome within the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center system and applications to a state-wide referral system