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MSPH with a Concentration in Genetic Counseling

USF COPH: MSPH in Genetic Counseling

The University of South Florida (USF) is proud to offer the first Genetic Counseling Graduate Program in the State of Florida. Our program includes a unique combination of training in medical genetics/genomics, public health, and communication and counseling skills. Students of this program will gain the technical knowledge and clinical experience needed to compete in the rapidly growing field of genetic counseling and the emerging field of precision medicine.

In October 2016, our program received accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). The Genetic Counseling degree is a comprehensive, 21-month, full-time program that consists of didactic and skill-based courses, multiple clinical rotations and field experiences beginning in the first semester, independent learning opportunities, and a thesis research requirement. Upon successful completion of the program, students will receive a Master’s of Science in Public Health with a concentration in Genetic Counseling (MSPH-GC) and will be eligible to sit for the national board certification exam that is administered by the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC).

The Genetic Counseling degree is a comprehensive, 21-month, full-time, in-person program that consists of didactic and skill-based courses, multiple clinical rotations and field experiences beginning in the first semester, independent learning opportunities, and a thesis research requirement.

Our Mission

The mission of the USF Health Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling is to train genetic counselors to evaluate, understand, and meet the evolving needs of genomic health care service delivery. Our goal is to prepare program graduates to provide compassionate clinical care to individuals and families and to engage in educational, research, and policy efforts to ensure that genomic technologies and genetic counseling positively and equitably benefit individuals, families, institutions, communities, and diverse populations.

The Genetic Counseling MSPH Program at the University of South Florida is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling, Inc. 1660 International Drive, Suite 600, McLean, VA 22102, Telephone: (703) 506-7667.

  • Leadership from the USF College of Public Health have teamed up with faculty across the University and beyond to create the Genetic Counseling Program. USF’s Pediatrics Division of Genetics & Metabolism, USF Obstetrics and Gynecology Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine, Tampa General Hospital, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, Orlando Health, Integrated Genetics, and other community partners provide students with the hands-on counseling experience required for graduation.

    Leadership

    Deborah Cragun, PhD, MS, CGC
    Program Director

    Dr. Cragun is the Program Director for the USF Genetic Counseling Graduate Program. She has over six years of clinical practice in pediatric, prenatal, and cancer genetic counseling at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Moffitt Cancer Center. She was involved in the University of Cincinnati’s GC Program as a clinical and research supervisor for nearly three years. After teaching genetics for two years at the University of Tampa, she began researching genetic counseling access, service delivery, and outcomes while earning a PhD in Public Health at USF and subsequently completing a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Moffitt Cancer Center. In 2015, she became an Assistant Professor in USF’s College of Public Health where she conducts research, teaches, and serves as the Program Director for the Genetic Counseling MSPH degree program. Dr. Cragun is also currently a Multiple Principal Investigator on a Cancer Moonshot U01 research study funded by the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Deborah Cragun’s CV

    Nevena Krstić, MS, CGC
    Associate Program Director

    Nevena is a board certified genetic counselor and an assistant professor at the University of South Florida (USF), the Associate Director for USF’s Genetic Counseling Program, and serves as the Program and Research Coordinator at MotherToBaby Florida. In addition to providing counseling as an information specialist at MTB Florida and USF Exposures Clinic, she provides prenatal and preconception genetic counseling in various clinics across the Tampa Bay area. She provides both clinical supervision and coursework instruction for students from the USF Genetic Counseling Program. Nevena earned her BS in Microbiology and Cell Science for University of Florida in 2010 and a MS in Genetic Counseling from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston in 2012. Nevena Krstić’s CV

    Kathleen Pope, MD, MS, FAAP, FACMG
    Medical Director

    Dr. Pope is the Medical Director for the USF Genetic Counseling Graduate Program. She has a BA in biology from Williams College, an MS in genetic counseling from Northwestern University, and her MD from Indiana University School of Medicine. She completed pediatrics residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center and genetics residency at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center. She is board certified in medical genetics and pediatrics, and has been a practicing clinical geneticist, caring for adult and pediatric patients as well as teaching USF students and residents, since 2012. She is currently the genetics division chief at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando. Dr. Kathleen Pope’s CV

    Melissa Racobaldo, MS, CGC
    Director of Fieldwork Training

    Melissa is the Director of Fieldwork Training for the USF Genetic Counseling Program. She received her BS in Psychology and Genetics from Clemson University and her MS in Genetic Counseling from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in 2015. She is currently a genetic counselor in the Genetics and Metabolism clinic with the Department of Pediatrics at the University of South Florida where she sees a variety of patients including pediatric, metabolic, adult, and cardiovascular patients. Melissa Racobaldo’s CV

    Genetic Counseling Program Advisory Board

    • Dr. Deborah Cragun, PhD, Assistant Professor and USF Genetic Counseling Program Director, College of Public Health
    • Nevena Krstić, MS, CGC, Associate Director, USF Genetic Counseling Program, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Morsani College of Medicine
    • Dr. Kathleen Pope, MD, Assistant Professor and Medical Director, USF Genetic Counseling Program, College of Public Health
    • Melissa Racobaldo, MS, CGC, Director of Fieldwork Training, USF Genetic Counseling Program, USF Pediatrics Division of Genetics and Metabolism, Morsani College of Medicine
    • Jennifer Brzosowicz, MS, CGC, Moffitt Cancer Center
    • Dr. Russell Kirby, PhD, USF Distinguished Professor and Marrell Endowed Chair, College of Public Health
    • Laura Moreno, MS, LCGC, Cancer Treatment Centers of America — City of Hope, USF GC Program Alumna
    • Dr. Sarah Običan, MD, Associate Professor, Division Chief of Maternal Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Morsani College of Medicine
    • Dr. Tuya Pal, MD, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center
    • Dr. Judith Ranells, MD, Division of Genetics and Metabolism, Department of Pediatrics, Morsani College of Medicine
    • Darrow Speyer, MS, CGC, Invitae, Past President of Florida Association of Genetic Counselors
    • Dr. Heather Zierhut, PhD, University of Minnesota Genetic Counseling Program Director
  • Clinical Rotations
    Students of the USF Genetic Counseling Program complete two 7-week preparatory rotations during the spring semester of their first year. During the summer between their first and second years, students go on a 6-week full time rotation. During their second year, students complete a laboratory rotation, an industry rotation, and four 7-week core rotations over the course of the fall and spring semesters.

    Clinical rotations during the academic year are in the Tampa Bay area, Orlando, Lakeland, and Sarasota. This requires that students have reliable transportation to get to their clinical rotations.   During the summer, students are encouraged to leave the Tampa Bay area to get experience with different clinics and populations. USF has established summer rotation sites in Gainesville, Miami, Orlando, and Sarasota, and the number of sites available for summer rotations will expand as we grow the genetic counseling profession in our state.  Students have also sought summer rotations in other states (usually where there is not already an established Genetic Counseling Program).

    Other Experiences
    During their time in our program, students attend the Genetic Counseling Book & Movie Club, USF Pediatric and USF Prenatal Grand Rounds, case conferences, tumor boards, and other activities and events to enhance their education. After their first year, students attend the annual Florida Association of Genetic Counselors (FLAGC) meeting, and in their second year, students attend the National Society of Genetic Counselors Annual Meeting (NSGC). 

  • Genetic counseling is a growing profession with a wide array of employment opportunities. Genetic counselors work in a variety of clinical, laboratory, industry, and research settings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of genetic counselors is expected to grow 29%, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. You can learn more about the genetic counseling profession by visiting the website of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC).

    Graduates of the USF Genetic Counseling MSPH Concentration are able to sit for the ABGC Board Exam and become Certified Genetic Counselors, and this is the only program at USF with this opportunity. The first-time pass rate of the ABGC Board Exam for our program’s graduates is 71%, and 93% of all graduates have passed the ABGC Board Exam. 100% of our graduates have been employed in genetic counseling positions. 

  • The Genetic Counseling MSPH program admissions requirements can be found at USF Graduate Admissions or College of Public Health Graduate Admissions. There are three parts of the application process for the USF Genetic Counseling Program: the SOPHAS application, the abridged USF Graduate Admissions application, and the Genetic Counseling Match registration. Given the competitive nature of the Genetic Counseling MSPH Concentration, we suggest that you review the recommendations for strengthening your application in the FAQ section.

    Applicants to the Genetic Counseling MSPH Concentration must submit all application materials by December 15th each year to be competitive for admission in the following fall semester. This is based on the admission timeline as determined by the Association of Genetic Counseling Program Directors. We highly recommend that you submit your application in November or early December and check with SOPHAS often to ensure the application is verified.

    SOPHAS Application
    An application must be completed, verified, and the application fee paid in SOPHAS. If you have questions regarding this application, please contact cophinfo@usf.edu. Applications that have a status of ‘received’ or ‘completed’ in SOPHAS cannot be reviewed, only ‘verified’ applications can be reviewed by the admissions committee.

    All application materials must be submitted through SOPHAS. Application materials include:

    USF Graduate Admissions Application
    After submitting the SOPHAS application, applicants will receive an email from COPH Graduate admissions with a link to an abbreviated version of the USF Graduate School application to complete. This includes an application fee for the USF Graduate School. Do not attach application materials with this abbreviated application, only upload application materials to SOPHAS. If you have questions regarding this application, please contact cophinfo@usf.edu.

    Genetic Counseling Match Registration
    All applicants must register and pay a fee to participate in the Genetic Counseling Admissions Match that is administered by the National Matching Services. Only applicants registered for the match can have their applications reviewed. Please visit the Genetic Counseling Admissions Match website for more information on the matching process and how to register.

    *GRE scores are no longer required for the application to the USF Genetic Counseling Program

    Estimation of Program Costs
    Please visit the University Controller’s Office website for Tuition and Fee information to view current graduation rates. The USF Genetic Counseling Program currently requires a total of 45 credit hours.

    Degree Requirements
    Genetic Counseling MSPH and Course Requirements

    Rotation Requirements
    Rotations are held throughout the Tampa Bay and Orlando regions. Students complete two 7-week preparatory rotations in their first spring semester, a 6-week full-time summer rotation, and four 7-week rotations during their second year (two rotations per semester). These rotations are in the areas of cancer, pediatrics, and prenatal. Several sites have specialty clinics included in the overall rotation. Students are also required to complete a laboratory and an industry rotation. For more information, see the Experiential Learning section.

    MSPH Thesis
    All USF Genetic Counseling students are required to complete a formal Master’s thesis. Although most genetic counselors do not go into research, the objective of conducting research is to help students develop skills in succinctly summarizing existing literature, problem-solving, data analysis, writing, evaluation, and critical thinking, which are useful skills in any setting they may practice.

    Each student will work with guidance from their Thesis Committee Chair and Members to create a defined research project for which the student is the principal investigator. During their first semester as part of PHC 6756: Population Assessment I, students will conduct a literature review. Then in the second semester students begin a 3-part clinical research course series, where they will refine or develop the research question and hypothesis, write the specific aims and research plan, and complete IRB forms (in some cases these may be amendments to existing studies). After this, the student will collect data, analyze it, and write a manuscript that is suitable to submit to a peer-reviewed journal. This step-by-step process over the course of their two years will help facilitate the publishing of student research.

    Cumulative Exam and Board Examination Practice Test
    All USF Genetic Counseling students are required to take a comprehensive exam at the end of their first year and a practice board exam at the end of their second year.

  • FAQs:

    How can I learn more about the USF GC Program?

    We recommend review previous Open House Recordings, which include a presentation of the USF GC Program and a Q&A session with program faculty and students. We also recommend reviewing our full FAQ document.  If you have questions that are not answered on the website, in the FAQ document, or in the Open House recordings, you may email geneticcounseling@usf.edu. You may also email us if you would like to be added to our prospective student email list to be notified of opportunities and events for prospective GC students.

    How do I attend the Open House?

    The USF Genetic Counseling Program hosts an open house each fall semester. The date and information on the Open House are sent to the prospective student email list and posted on the program's Instagram page (usfgcprogram) in late summer each year. The Open House is a great opportunity to learn more about the field of genetic counseling and our program. Prospective students will have the opportunity to hear from our program director and leadership, current students, and clinical supervisors. The past several years the Open House has been a live virtual event co-hosted with the Florida Association of Genetic Counselors (FLAGC). 

    How can I strengthen my application?     

    Are there specific things USF’s GC Program looks for in an application?

    What is the student selection process for entrance into the USF GC Program?

    Do students see diverse populations during their clinical rotations?

    Is it possible to complete the USF GC Program with a full-time job or online?

  • To learn more, please contact a Pre-Admissions Advisor at (813) 974-6505 or preadmissions@usf.edu.

    Questions about the Genetic Counseling Program and requests to be added to the USF Genetic Counseling prospective student mailing list can be sent to geneticcounseling@usf.edu.

    Follow our students on Instagram at usfgcprogram.

The Genetic Counseling MSPH Program at the University of South Florida is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling, Inc. 7918 Jones Branch Drive, Ste. 300, McLean, VA 22102, Telephone: (703) 506-7667