Penn Medicine receives $9.7 million grant for genetic counseling

01-09-23-penn-medicine-anna-vazhaeparambil

Penn Medicine received a $9.7 million donation from the Warren Alpert Foundation to support the WAF-Career Ladder Education Program for Genetic Counseling.
Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

The Warren Alpert Foundation donated $9.7 million to Penn Medicine to support genetic counselors’ educational and research efforts.

The grant will fund the WAF-Career Ladder Education Program for Genetic Counseling, which will allow genetic counselors to continue their education and research new ways to implement genomic data into clinical practice, according to the news release published on Jan 4. 

Led by genetics researchers and faculty members in the Perelman School of Medicine, genetic counselors will receive advanced training in areas such as hereditary disorders, assessing risks, cancer prevention, and family planning. 

The WAF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of the public through grants and programmatic activities. In 2021, the WAF gifted Penn Medicine with a $9.5 million grant to advance diversity in genetic counseling. This new grant will allow for genetic counselors to continue education efforts. 

The WAF-Career Ladder Education Program for Genetic Counseling will also include the creation of new online continuing education unit courses for genetic counselors. Each one-credit CEU course will provide genetic counselors with comprehensive lessons on genomics or personalized medicine. 

Other potential initiatives include creating certificate programs for advanced training, developing a post-graduate doctoral degree in genetic counseling, and designing more CEU courses.

Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine will partner with four other institutions: Baylor College of Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and the University of Washington School of Medicine. WAF chose these institutions, as well as Penn Medicine, as grant recipients based on their caliber of clinical programs, existing master’s programs in genetic counseling, and their commitment to research.

“Creating a robust career ladder to support genetic counselors’ advanced training and professional development is critical,” Daniel Rader, Penn’s chair of the Genetics Department and chief of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics, told Penn Medicine. “This commitment to the career development of genetic counselors will be transformational, not just at the five participating institutions but also nationally and globally.”

August Schiesser, the executive director of WAF, told Penn Medicine that institutions and organizations helping develop the field of genetic counselors can have wide-reaching, positive consequences. 

“Given the increasing complexity of career development and the expanded roles for genetic counselors, support in career development is imperative. We are excited to support the career ladder for genetic counselors and we are delighted to award Penn this grant,” Schiesser told Penn Medicine.

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