Augustana-Sanford Genetic Counseling Graduate Program Receives National Accreditation

Master's Program in Genetic Counseling at Augustana University

Augustana University and Sanford Health today announced that Augustana’s new master’s program in genetic counseling has received national accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). The program is recognized as one of only 32 such master’s programs nationwide, and the only one in the Dakotas.

Created through a collaborative partnership with Sanford Imagenetics, the program is led by Augustana’s Quinn Stein, MS, CGC, a certified genetic counselor and associate professor.

Over the last two years, Stein has worked to help develop the academic program and assemble the team of scientists, researchers and clinicians who will teach its courses and help recruit and select an annual cohort of students from around the nation.

Upon their completion of the two-year program, students will have met the requirements necessary to sit for the American Board of Genetic Counseling certification exam. From there, Stein said, career opportunities will be plentiful.

“Genetic Counseling is an emerging field with a high rate of job satisfaction. Within the profession, new opportunities are emerging every day,” Stein said.

“Students who graduate from this program will go on to become genetic counselors pursuing careers in pediatric genetics, reproductive genetics, cancer genetics, cardiovascular genetics, ophthalmic genetics or genetics in primary care. Some will work for clinical genetics laboratories writing reports or working in utilization management. Some will go on to become medical-science liaisons for genetics research or testing companies. Others might work for insurance companies or academic medical centers. The possibilities are endless.”

Quinn Stein
Certified Genetic Counselor and Associate Professor

Stein said the program’s curriculum coincides with the mission of Sanford Imagenetics, an initiative designed to integrate genomic medicine into primary care for adults. It’s expected that graduates of the program will be astute communicators, scholarly professionals, and engaged members of their communities.

Nationwide, there’s a high need for genetic counselors, according to Gene Hoyme, MD, chief of Genetics and Genomic Medicine at Sanford Health and medical director of the new program.

“With the explosion of information about the human genome and personalized medicine, there is an acute need for genetics professionals who can counsel patients about genetic testing and its implication for health care. This new program will help produce genetic counselors to fill this need in the region and throughout the country,” Hoyme said. “We are proud to build on the long history of educational and research collaboration between Augustana University and Sanford Health to bring this unique program to fruition.”

In addition to its partnership with Sanford Imagenetics, Augustana’s program will also feature a consortial relationship with University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego), through which selected students will have the opportunity to spend the second year of the program studying at UC San Diego’s campus and working in clinical rotations throughout San Diego. In addition to UC San Diego, other thought leaders from the San Diego community have given input into the program’s design and intend to provide student learning opportunities.  These world-class institutions include Rady Children’s Hospital – San Diego, Rady Pediatric Genomics and Systems Medicine Institute, the Naval Medical Center San Diego, Kaiser Permanente, and Illumina.

In its accreditation letter, ACGC praised Augustana and Sanford Imagenetics for developing a robust program.

“Your application reflects a comprehensive program of study with appropriate opportunity for student development. You and your colleagues are to be commended for adding to the training opportunities for genetic counselors,” the ACGC wrote.

Dr. Susan Hasseler, senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Augustana, said the program represents a significant effort to educate and train individuals who will be at the forefront of emerging advances in medicine.

“For Augustana University, the opportunity to build a program that will develop leaders in genomic medicine who will go on to serve in communities near and far is truly exciting,” Hasseler said. “Students who come through this program will experience classroom, clinical and laboratory instruction from some of the nation’s finest researchers. They’ll also have unmatched opportunities for hands-on experience in the most advanced, sophisticated labs in existence today. We’re looking forward to welcoming our first students in fall 2016.”