Clinical Rotations

Genetic Counseling Clinical Rotations

Genetic counseling students have the opportunity to participate in patient care at world-renowned medical facilities. They typically see 150-200 cases or more and are exposed to a variety of genetic referral types as well as diverse medical systems.

Below, some alumni share their perspectives on the program’s clinical rotations:

"The area in close proximity to the school of public health is also filled with nearly countless hospitals, clinics, and research facilities all within walking distance, or accessible by bus which is free for students.”
—Randy (Class of 2015)

"You are embedded in one of the leading research universities and are surrounded by hospitals that people fly to from all over the world for treatment.”
—Katya (Class of 2015)

"I appreciate the opportunity to have clinical rotations in a variety of sites and across health systems. When graduating, I felt confident that when I started my first job the clinical environment would be similar to something I had already been exposed to or to which I could easily adapt.”
—Emily (Class of 2017)

"My clinical experiences through the genetic counseling program were both diverse and challenging. The variety in rotation sites allowed me to cultivate a strong counseling style because I was able to work closely with a number of genetic counselors and see a large volume of cases.”
—Meg (Class of 2018)

Clinical Rotation Sites

Pittsburgh has a thriving health care community, with over 40 hospitals inside the metropolitan area. All of the rotation sites are located within the city of Pittsburgh. Several are located within walking distance from Pitt Public Health. The other rotation sites are short bus rides away, and bus transportation is free with the use of a student’s Pitt ID card.

Rotation sites shown on the map include

  1. Division of Medical Genetics at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
  2. Center for Medical Genetics and Genomics at Magee-Women’s Hospital
  3. UPMC Cancer Genetics Program, Hillman Cancer Center
  4. UPMC Cancer Genetics Program, Magee Women’s Hospital
  5. UPMC Cancer Genetics Program, UPMC Shadyside
  6. Prenatal Genetics Program at West Penn Hospital
  7. Cancer Genetic Program at Allegheny General Hospital
  8. UPMC Presbyterian Hospital
  9. Huntington’s Disease Clinic, UPMC Montefiore
  10. UPMC Matilda H. Theiss Health Center

Rotation schedules are divided into 13 blocks, with each block lasting three weeks. All students will spend three blocks in cancer genetics, three blocks in prenatal genetics, and three blocks in pediatric genetics as well as one block in adult/specialty genetics, primary care, and a thesis focused block with clinic days in the Center for Advanced Fetal Diagnostics (CAFD). In addition, students spend three weeks (one block) at an optional rotation site. This allows students the opportunity to select specific training experiences to develop a higher level of expertise based on their interests.

Examples of full student rotation schedules

Image removed.Image removed.CHP: Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
MWH: Magee-Womens Hospital
AGH: Alegheny General Hospital
UPMC: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Examples of recent optional rotation experiences include

  • Children and Adolescent Bipolar Spectrum Services (CABS) Clinic, Pittsburgh PA
  • Utilization Review Program, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Laboratory, Pittsburgh PA
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancer Genetics, UPMC, Pittsburgh PA
  • Whole Exome Sequencing and Clinical Application of Genomic Technology, Baylor Miraca Laboratories, Pittsburgh PA
  • Newborn Screening Program, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA
  • Ophthalmic Genetics Clinic, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA

Check out our student blog for student perspectives on their optional rotations.

In the first year of study and continuing through the clinical rotations, students also gain exposure to multiple sub-specialty clinics including...

  • Sickle Cell Clinic, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
  • Metabolic Diseases Clinic, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
  • Cardiovascular Genetics, UPMC
  • Neurogenetics Clinics, UPMC
  • Down Syndrome Clinic, UPMC
  • Phenylketonuria (PKU) Clinic, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
  • Lysosomal Storage Disorders (LSD) Clinic, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
  • High Risk Ovarian Cancer Clinic, Magee-Women’s Hospital
  • Inpatient Genetics, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
  • Fetal Diagnostic and Treatment Center, Magee-Women’s Hospital
  • Cancer Telemedicine, Magee-Women’s Hospital
  • Prenatal Genetics Services in Satellite Clinics, Allegheny Health Network

Clinical Supervisor Spotlight

Roxanne Acquaro, supervisor of clinical genetic services, division of medical genetics, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Acquaro is a licensed certified genetic counselor, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh genetic counseling program in 2003. Pittsburgh has always been her home. Most of her career to date has been spent as a prenatal genetic counselor at West Penn Hospital under the care and tutelage of its wonderful Gene Team. She developed an outreach program at DuBois Regional Hospital where she was the only provider of genetic counseling services in all of the northwestern communities of central Pennsylvania. Those years spent as a prenatal genetic counselor allowed her to learn and grown in the areas of psychosocial analysis and support, which she considers to be her predominate area of interest in the field of genetic counseling.

She made the move to the utilization review program at CHP in 2015. In 2016 another great opportunity through the Medical Genetics Department of CHP presented itself when the department was searching for a new GC supervisor of clinical genetic services. This career move was made with the goal of improving service delivery models and efficiency to increase patient access to the department resources. Acquaro still enjoys seeing pediatric genetic counseling patients as well as being the lead genetic counselor on the inpatient genetic service at CHP. She finds the multitude of hats she gets to wear exhilarating and rewarding.

She is currently working on her cooking and child-rearing skills with a group of volunteers consisting of a husband and two young daughters who are willing to foster her continued growth in these areas by never being predictable and always needing something.

Previously Featured Clinical Supervisors

Darcy Thull, MS, LCGC

Darcy Thull, a board certified and licensed genetic counselor, currently works as the senior genetic counselor in the UPMC Cancer Genetics Program. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh Genetic Counseling Program in 1989, and has worked in the city of Pittsburgh at various 5 facilities throughout her career. For the past 13 years her career has focused specifically on cancer risk assessment and counseling, however she has experience in pediatrics, prenatal and general genetics and has coordinated several specialty clinics including connective tissue disorders and dwarfism. She has served as the Genetic Counseling Student Supervisor for 14 years and has an active role in the Program giving several lectures to the students as an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition, she is an instructor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and teaches several lectures to the first year medical students in cancer risk assessment. Ms. Thull also plays an active role in the education of the Molecular Genetics Fellows, Medical Genetics Fellows, Breast Surgery Fellows and Gynecologic Oncology Fellows through didactic lectures and mentoring during cancer genetics clinical rotations. She has an interest in telemedicine and is a collaborator in CIMBA (Consortium of Investigators of Modifiers of BRCA1/2) an international group. She has been a member of NSGC for her entire career and has served on several committees.

Emily James, MS, LCGC

Emily James received her MS in genetic counseling from the University of Pittsburgh Genetic Counseling Training Program in 2007. She is Board Certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling and is an active member of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, serving on several committees. She has worked in Pittsburgh and served as the Genetic Counseling Student Supervisor for 8 years. She has experience in pediatric genetics and research, but for the past 4 years has worked in cancer and cardiovascular genetics in the Allegheny Health Network. She has a special interest in providing genetic counseling services in rural and under-served communities. She has an active role in the Program giving several lectures to the students as an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Pittsburgh, participating in Clinical Case Conference, and serving on several thesis committees. Ms. James has also been a faculty member for the Online Review Course in Medical Genetics and Genetic Counseling and is a part-time faculty member at Robert Morris University teaching Clinical Genetics for Doctor of Nursing Practice students.

Maureen May, MS, LCGC

Maureen May received her MS in genetic counseling from the University of Pittsburgh Genetic Counseling Training Program in 2011 and is Board Certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. She is an active member of the National Society of Genetic Counselors and a member of the Cancer SIG. Maureen has experience in general and pediatric genetics at the Cleveland Clinic and in several hospitals in the Pittsburgh area, and has a research background in genetic contributions to neurotransmitter function. She currently practices as a genetic counselor in oncology at several sites within the Allegheny Health Network, where she enjoys her roles in providing continuing education for faculty, optimizing the department’s use of electronic health record systems, and especially in mentoring students. She coordinates the health network’s initiative to identify individuals at risk for hereditary colorectal cancer through collaborations between the pathology, gastroenterology, surgical and genetics departments. Prior to training as a genetic counselor, Maureen worked extensively in the mental health and foster care systems and continues to hold a strong interest in working with underserved, disengaged and low income communities.

Juliann Stevens McConnell, MS, LCGC

Juliann Stevens McConnell received her MS in genetic counseling from the University of Pittsburgh Genetic Counseling Training Program in 1988 and is Board Certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. She has been active for many years in local and national genetics organizations, and currently serves as the Education Co-Chair for the Pediatric/Adult SIG and a Social Media Subcommittee Chair for the Cardiovascular SIG. Juliann has also served on the ABGC Certification Examination Committee since 2012. Juliann has experience in all aspects of genetic counseling, with an emphasis on pediatrics and general genetics, and has worked in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. While in the clinic setting, she specialized in connective tissue disorders, and participated in research associated with Cutis Laxa, as well as Alzheimer’s disease.  She was the Supervisor of the Genetic Counselors until she left Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in 2014 to join GeneDx as a senior laboratory genetic counselor for the Cardiovascular Team.