MPH in Public Health Genetics

The MPH in Public Health Genetics program integrates genetics and the public health science disciplines of epidemiology, pathobiology, biostatistics, environmental health, and health services research, with ethics, social sciences, public affairs, economics and law. Public health genetics focuses on phenotypic disease prevention in populations, not just individual patients and their families. It addresses society’s legal, ethical, financial, regulatory, and organizational responsibilities in offering genetic services, and devising environmental and occupational interventions to prevent disease in populations.

Upon completion of the MPH in public health genetics, students will meet the following program-specific competencies:

  1. Apply knowledge of inheritance, including basic cellular and molecular mechanisms, and both genetic and non-genetic related risk factors for disease to understanding a variety of rare and common health conditions
  2. Assess and communicate the benefits, risks, and limitations of the integration of genetics and genomics principles and technologies into public health projects and initiative
  3. Identify and assess the ethical, legal and social principles and issues important to public health genetics
  4. Effectively communicate genetic and genomic principles to the general public, public health professionals, and health care providers
  5. Evaluate how genetic principles/technologies apply to precision public health: the targeting of diagnosis, screening, and interventions for disease prevention and health promotion programs
  6. Promote integration of justice, health equity, diversity, and inclusion into genetics, public health genetics, and precision public health programs and initiatives

Requirements

  • Completion of 47 credits, including a minimum of 37 credits of coursework in human genetics and the core public health disciplines
  • A 200-hour practicum
  • Final MPH essay (involving data analysis)
  • Graduates are required to meet the Human Genetics MPH competencies described above and all MPH Public Health Competencies

Careers

Recent graduates hold the following positions:

  • Staff, University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy Program Evaluation and Research Unit, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Project Coordinator, Association of American Cancer Institutes
  • Project Coordinator, Libyan Ministry of Health (Vaccination Program)
  • Research Assistant, All of Us Precision Medicine Initiative, University of Pittsburgh, PA
  • Staff, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspective Service, Washington, D.C.
  • Epidemiologist, West Virginia Health Center
  • Project Manager, Center for Oral Health in Appalachia (COHRA)

Graduates also pursue doctoral study, medical school, or other degrees.

Program Leadership

Andrea L. Durst
Program Director

Andrea Durst is the director of the MPH program in public health genetics. She also serves as associate director of the genetic counseling program. She brings extensive experience in clinical cancer genetic counseling, management, and public health genetics. 

 

MPH Class of 2023

Gracen Mitrick, Practicum: Genetics Research Assistant at UPMC Children's Hopsital of Pittsburgh

Gracen Mitrick graduated from the College of Charleston with a major in biology with a minor in psychology, researching plant genetics with Arabidopsis thaliana. Here in Pittsburgh she is a student recruitment ambassador and BSPH peer mentor. Her favorite things about the city are its sporting events, festivals and museums. There is always something going on, she's never bored here. Mitrick is from Greenville, SC and can juggle! 

MPH Class of 2024

Swathi Balaji (she/her), Practicum: Interventions to Minimize Preterm and Low Birth Weight Infants Using Continuous Quality Improvement Techniques

"Swathi Balaji"Swathi Balaji graduated from Rutgers University with a major in cognitive neuroscience. As a non-traditional student, she served as a clinical research professional at Columbia University Medical Center, contributing to oncology clinical trials. Motivated by the diversity and exceptional health care offered at the University of Pittsburgh, she is now dedicated to improving the well-being of diverse populations as an MPH student. In her leisure time, she enjoys watching reality TV, exploring Pittsburgh, and embracing new experiences.

For her practicum, she worked with the IMPLICIT (Interventions to Minimize Preterm and Low Birth Weight Infants Using Continuous Quality Improvement Techniques) Network where she curated informational infographics. The content targeting mothers/birthing people, and family medicine residents in training, to emphasize health and birthing equity. Balaji launched their public-facing social media page which aimed to disseminate information on interventions to minimize preterm and low birth weight infants. 

Vivian Duong (she/her), Practicum: Clinical and Public Health Research at UPMC Cancer Center

"Vivian Duong"Vivian Duong graduated with a BS in neuroscience from the University of Texas at Dallas with a concentration in medical neuroscience. She has clinical and public health research experience at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, where she studied the roles of psychological and physiological factors of persistent pain in breast cancer survivor patients after breast cancer surgery. She aspires to use her graduate education and experience to increase awareness for health disparities and promote cultural competence in healthcare and public health. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, singing, dancing, and painting!

For her practicum, Duong served a rare disease advocacy organization, the E.WE Foundation, dedicated to supporting patients and families affected by Trisomy 18 and other rare diseases. She researched, developed and implemented a health equity workshop for rare disease patients and advocates, aimed at increasing awareness and education for inequities in health access and care for patients and families affected by rare diseases. 

Autumn Bryant

"Autumn Bryant"Autumn Bryant graduated from Ohio State University with a major in molecular genetics and a minor in medical laboratory science. She’s volunteered with the Crisis Text Line and worked as a genetic counseling assistant. Autumn is from Woodridge, IL, and she’s visited 14 national parks!

 

 

 

 

Caroline Wallendal (she/her), Practicum: Lysosomal Storage Disorders Clinic at UPMC Children's Hospital

"Caroline Wallendal"Caroline Wallendal graduated from the University of Pittsburgh as a double biological sciences and history & philosophy of science major. During undergrad she worked in Alcorn Lab at UPMC Childrens Hospital of Pittsburgh, interned at Aruvant, and volunteered for the Crisis Text Line. She likes exploring the different neighborhoods of Pittsburgh to try new restaurants and coffee shops. Wallendal is from Flemington, NJ, and is interested in working in pediatrics to improve outcomes for children with genetic conditions.

Wallendal's practicum is being done in the Lysosomal Storage Disorders Clinic at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. She has been assisting with clinical trials for patients with rare conditions, gathering resources to share with families, and improving organization of research materials. 

Karmen Reynolds (she/her), Practicum: Clinical Research Assistant at UPMC Children's Hospital

"Karmen Reynolds"Karmen Reynolds graduated from Colorado State University with a BS in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience and a minor in French. She completed an undergraduate thesis investigating the effects of toxic stress in early childhood on physical and social development and evaluated the relative efficacy of parenting interventions at promoting child resilience. She currently works at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh in infectious disease research. Reynolds enjoys traveling, weekly bachelor nation watch parties with fellow MPH students, and baking far more sweets than one person can feasibly consume. 

Reynolds works as a clinical research assistant at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. The study she works on is part of a national vaccine surveillance network that collects data on acute viral illnesses in children with the goal to improve vaccine efficacy in the future. 

Kennedy Sawicki (she/her), Practicum: Kids' Health Connections in Detroit

"Kennedy Sawicki"Kennedy Sawicki is a second year student whose passion in public health genetics lies in newborn screening and education about NBS programs. In undergrad, she was a volunteer with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and founded the Planned Parenthood Generation Action student group at MSU. She works in Dr. Robert Coulter's lab doing research on preventing LGBTQ+ youth bullying/alcohol/drug abuse and education for teachers on supporting their LGBTQ+ students. Kennedy is a part of the 2023-24 This is Public Health Student Ambassador Program so look out for her social media takeover where she will be talking all about public health genetics! 

Sawicki's practicum is with Kids' Health Connections in Detroit, MI working on a community garden with children and their families to prevent childhood obesity. She is also working with the Midwest Genetics Network on the geneTIC workgroup to create a literature review and cost-benefit analysis fact sheet about trauma informed care in genetics clinics. 

Rebecca Terrill (she/her), Practicum: DDC Clinic Center for Special Needs Children in Ohio

"Rebecca Terrill"Rebecca Terrill graduated from The Ohio State University in 2022 with a major in biology and a minor in psychology. She recently completed her practicum at DDC Clinic Center for Special Needs Children in Middlefield, Ohio where she worked to create educational materials for parents and families and worked on updating their lab and clinic websites. She is also pursuing a Certificate in Health Equity. Terrill is from Stow, Ohio and enjoys spending time with friends and finding new things to do in Pittsburgh. 

 

 

MPH Class of 2025

Alyssa Arreola (she/her)

"Alyssa Arreola"Alyssa Arreola is a graduate of Purdue University where she aided in research under the Health TechQuity lab. During her time in undergrad, she founded the Medical Humanities Book Club, served as performer and president for the Purdue Contemporary Dance Company, and mentored Women in Science. During her time at Pitt, she plans on exploring genetics research and policy. Outside of school, Alyssa enjoys dancing and hanging with friends. 

 

 

 

Lindsey Haines (she/her)

"Lindsey Haines"Lindsey Haines graduated from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin majoring in Biology. She is currently interested in lysosomal storage disorders after becoming familiar with them after working as a research assistant at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh in 2022 and after completing her undergrad research investigating insurance coverage for MPS patients at Children's Hospital. In Pittsburgh, Lindsey loves going to the museums, going on walks and hanging out with her cat. 

 

 

 

Eli Harter (they/them)

"Eli Harter"Eli Harter comes from a diverse research background in genetics and applied sciences. After a career in genetic sequencing at the Rockefeller University, they now hope to integrate modern transcriptomic and epigenetic screens into public health programs. 

 

 

 

 

 

Ashtyn Heckart (she/her)

"Ashtyn Heckart"Ashtyn Heckart is a first-year student who looks forward to exploring different topics with the field of public health genetics and has an interest in studying rare diseases and bioethics. In her free time, she enjoys reading, trying new restaurants and watching movies. 

 

 

 

 

 

Patsy Holtz (she/her)

"Patsy Holtz"Patsy Holtz received her bachelor's degree from Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA in 2023 with a major in genetics and counseling psychology with minors in psychology, public health and women, gender and sexuality studies. She has previous experience with genetics research and case management for victims of human trafficking. In Pittsburgh, she enjoys checking out the local music scene and finding the best food in town! 

Sarah Klotz (she/her)

"Sarah Klotz"Sarah Klotz graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a double major in biological sciences and French and Francophone studies. She has previously worked in clinical and translational research for rare, neurodegenerative diseases, transitioning into the gene therapy industry before beginning her graduate education at Pitt Public Health. Her work in both the clinic and industry setting ignited her passion for rare disease patient advocacy. Outside of work and school, Klotz enjoys yoga, baking, Penguins hockey games and spending time with her pets. 

Megan Piechowicz (she/her)

"Megan Piechowicz"Megan Piechowicz is an MS in genetic counseling and MPH dual degree student. She graduated from Eastern State University in 2023 as a University Honors Scholar, majoring in biology with a minor in genetic counseling. Previously, Megan interned with Middlesex Health in Middletown and Westbrook, CT to assist genetic counselors with research, screening and appointments. She loves to swim, ski, jet ski and be outside in her free time. 

Kathryn Ryan (she/her)

"Kathryn Ryan"Kathryn Ryan graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a BS in biology with a concentration in genetics. During her undergrad, she worked as a research assistant in both the genetics and anthropology departments at Penn State as well as volunteered as a learning assistant for physics and chemistry. Ryan is from Clayton, New Jersey and spends her free time writing and hanging out with her cat, Robin. 

Niyati Savur (she/her)

"Niyati Savur"Niyati Savur graduated from SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Chennai, India with a B Tech in genetic engineering. She has worked as a genetic counseling assistant in Tata Memorial Hospital and volunteered with children with learning difficulties. She is from Mumbai, India and enjoys reading, painting, going for walks and doing yoga in her free time.