Arcadia University to Transfer Sponsorship of Genetic Counseling program to University of Pennsylvania

By Caitlin Burns | December 11, 2018

Arcadia University and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania announce that, beginning in fall 2019, Arcadia University will transfer sponsorship, accreditation, curriculum, and faculty of its Master of Science in Genetic Counseling program to Penn.

Established in 1995, Arcadia’s Genetic Counseling program is one of 45 accredited programs in North America and one of the largest in the country, with 259 graduates. The program accepts 16 students annually, providing them access to clinical opportunities at some of the nation’s premier healthcare facilities. The program has worked closely with Penn since 1995, with Arcadia students fulfilling clinical placements within the University of Pennsylvania Health System and at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Penn faculty have been actively involved with the program as well, engaging with students through the affiliation for the past 24 years.

“Arcadia’s Genetic Counseling students have been interning, conducting research, and fulfilling clinical rotations with Penn and CHOP for many years now, and this collaboration benefits everyone involved—Arcadia, Penn, our students and faculty, and most importantly, genetic counseling patients and the genetic counseling field,” said Ajay Nair, PhD, president of Arcadia University. “Arcadia’s health sciences programs and professional programs are among the best in the region, and we are proud to find such a close collaborator for the Master of Science in Genetic Counseling program as Penn.”

The new training program complements Penn Medicine’s leadership in creating programs that incorporate genetic counseling services as a cornerstone of the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of those with suspected or known genetic mutations and conditions. In The Basser Center for BRCA at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center, for example, genetic counselors are an integral part of the team that works with individuals and families who carry BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutations, which greatly increase the risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Counselors discuss genetic testing, results, and guide patients as they plan for potentially lifesaving preventative surgeries and other interventions after learning they carry mutations. Genetic counselors in Penn Medicine’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine program also work with prospective parents to conduct pre- and post-conception testing for genetic conditions that can affect their child. Similarly, at CHOP, genetic counselors play a critical role in the division of Human Genetics, where they work with physicians to make diagnoses of rare genetic conditions in pediatric patients and counsel families about the clinical implications.

“The transfer of Arcadia’s program to Penn offers a unique opportunity to advance training for genetic counselors and to develop the next generation of leaders, innovators, clinicians, and researchers in this growing field,” said Daniel J. Rader, MD, chair of the department of Genetics in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “The creation of a program at Penn will leverage the existing wealth of clinical specialties on campus as well as the diagnostic laboratories, research initiatives, and personalized medicine experts—while building off of Arcadia’s rich history in the space.”

The 16 Genetic Counseling students in the second year of the two-year program will graduate from Arcadia University in May 2019 prior to the proposed changes to the program. The Class of 2020 (the 16 students admitted to Arcadia in fall 2018) will complete their curriculum without any changes or disruption to their schedule and will graduate from Arcadia. The students will be taught by the core Arcadia Genetic Counseling faculty to complete their didactic coursework and masters’ thesis projects and be guaranteed clinical placements within the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

This transferal of sponsorship also will benefit Arcadia’s nationally ranked Physical Therapy (PT) and Physician Assistant (PA) programs, with Penn guaranteeing clinical placements for students in Arcadia’s PT and PA programs for five years. Penn also will open up training sites for Arcadia’s PT and PA students and provide access to resources unavailable at Arcadia, including a simulation center, exposure to cadavers, and state-of-the-art virtual technology.

“Given the national genetic counseling workforce gap and the reputation of the genetics departments at Penn, we are well positioned to develop a high-quality program that will become a leader in the nation,” said Kathleen Valverde, professor and chair of Genetic Counseling at Arcadia and incoming director of the University of Pennsylvania Masters in Genetic Counseling Program. “As a founding faculty member of the Arcadia Master of Science in Genetic Counseling program, I am proud to see how this program has adapted and evolved over the past 24 years. I know that the program will continue to thrive at Penn.”

The Master of Science in Genetic Counseling at Arcadia is a five-semester, 21-month, full-time graduate program provides students with the knowledge base and skills required of a successful practitioner. Arcadia’s program meets the requirements of the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling; the overall pass rate on the ACGC certification exam is 93 percent for students in the last five graduating classes at Arcadia.