Sanford Imagenetics & Augustana University

As genetics and healthcare become more intertwined, there’s a growing need for genetics professionals. So Augustana University and Sanford Health have started working together to educate students for these in-demand jobs.


How it happened


Sanford Health saw an opportunity to create a genetic counseling program in Sioux Falls, and thought its neighbor, Augustana University, made sense as a partner. The two collaborated to put the program together.


“The job market in this industry has been really strong, with more than 500 jobs posted last year on a national site for genetics – and fewer than 300 people who were accepted into a genetic counseling program,” said Quinn Stein, a genetic counselor with Sanford Imagenetics and Augustana University.


“There’s a need, and we know we have the faculty expertise and driven young people to fill it.”


The new Sanford Imagenetics building – just blocks from Augustana’s campus – was designed with space for group learning and for students to work alongside staff.


“For Augustana, this program represented an opportunity to blend the liberal arts with a professional program to meet a clear need within society,” said Becca Loman, assistant program director of Augustana’s genetic counseling master’s program, noting the profession requires the ability to communicate effectively, analyze information and use scientific knowledge.


“There is a high demand for genetic counselors in the marketplace today and new opportunities in genetic counseling are emerging every day.”


How it works


The Augustana-Sanford Genetic Counseling Graduate Program is a two-year program. Students spend the first year working closely with Sanford Imagenetics professionals. Through an additional collaborative partnership, about half the students spend their second year in clinical rotations throughout San Diego.


Students learn to work in a variety of medical areas, from traditional clinical to laboratory settings.


Upon completing the program, students have met the requirements necessary to sit for the American Board of Genetic Counseling certification exam.


“The interest in our program has increased each year, and we receive applications from individuals throughout the United States and even other countries,” Loman said.


“We believe the hands-on learning opportunities that come through the program’s collaborations, the high demand for genetic counselors and the limited number of programs throughout the United States and Canada all contribute to the demand for our program.”


Real results


The first class of eight graduate next month. Six already have jobs, including four with Sanford. The others are interviewing around the country.


“These are the future leaders in genetic medicine and counseling, and from what we’ve experienced with this inaugural class, we’re in good hands,” Stein said.


The fall class will have 10 students, and there are more qualified applicants than there are spots, so both Augustana and Sanford are open to expanding it. That will depend on having enough clinical rotation sites where students can train, Loman said, but “as more individuals become genetic counselors, more growth opportunities will become available.”


The program is fulfilling its mission, both agreed.


“As our knowledge of all of this grows, so will our program,” Stein said. “It’s an exciting time to partner in this.”


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