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Programs News Kevin Storr December 28, 2020

The UAB School of Health Professions has partnered with the School of Medicine and the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB to offer a one-year post-graduation fellowship to a student in the M.S. in Genetic Counseling program. The fellowship will provide advanced clinical training, research and teaching opportunities in the area of cancer genetic counseling.  The student who is selected for the position will have full tuition support, be employed by the UAB Department of Genetics, and earn an educational stipend during the fellowship year in exchange for a four-year post-graduation commitment to work at UAB.

The idea for this fellowship came from Barry Sleckman, M.D, Ph.D., director of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB and is fully supported by the O’Neal Cancer Center.

Genetic testing is not like many medical tests where you go to the computer, click a button and understand the results. It is extremely complicated and requires specialized training and education to decipher and to communicate with patients.

“Genomics is now central to cancer diagnosis and treatment decisions,” said Sleckman. “As a result, genetic counselors are especially needed to help determine the significance of specific gene mutations to the patient and family members that may also carry the mutation.”

The UAB Genetic Counseling program was established in 2007 and provides robust didactic and clinical opportunities in all areas of genetic counseling.  This unique Fellowship provides the fellow with additional training after completion of the UAB Genetic Counseling program to develop advanced expertise in cancer genetics and genetic counseling.

“This partnership ensures that our GC training program will not only attract the top students from around the U.S., but also ensure that the students’ talents remain in Alabama to provide highly trained genetic counseling services to our residents for many years to come,” said Andrew Butler, Ph.D., dean of the UAB School of Health Professions.

“The O’Neal Cancer Center’s support of the educational cost of graduate training is an investment that fosters diversity and creates a workforce pipeline for advanced cancer care at UAB,” said R. Lynn Holt, MS, CGC, assistant professor and program director, UAB M.S. in Genetic Counseling program. “I am excited that we are able to offer this unique training program because it builds on UAB’s commitment to the integration of genetics into oncology patient care.”

The Fellowship includes:

  • Tuition scholarship for the UAB M.S. in Genetic Counseling program.
  • Paid position as GC assistant in UAB Genetics Clinic during graduate school.
  • Educational stipend during the fellowship year.
  • Research, teaching, advanced clinical training in cancer genetics and genetic counseling.
  • Four-year employment commitment upon graduation from the UAB Genetic Counseling program in the UAB Genetics Cancer Clinic with full salary and benefits.

The UAB genetic counseling workforce at UAB Hospital has tripled – going from 4 to 12 – over the past two years. That number will only continue to rise because the number of genetic counselors is insufficient to meet a demand that is continually growing.

Nathaniel Robin, M.D., Medical Director for UAB Genetics, says the program will address a specific need in cancer care by providing additional training to graduating genetic counselors in this highly focused area.

“These specialized genetic counselors will not only address the clinical needs of the O’Neal Cancer Center they will also enhance the clinical genetics program and the UAB Genetic Counselor training program. Everybody wins with this,” said Robin. 

The Fellowship will be awarded for the first time to a student enrolling in the genetic counseling graduate program in the fall semester 2021. The deadline to apply for the M.S. in Genetic Counseling program is January 7, 2021. For more information or to apply for the Fellowship, email R. Lynn Holt, MS, CGC, program director, UAB M.S. in Genetic Counseling program. For more information about the UAB Genetic Counseling Program, www.uab.edu/msgc.

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