GC-FIRST Fellowship

The Genetic Counseling Fellowship in ReSearch Training (GC-FIRST) Program

The University of Minnesota Genetic Counseling Program was recently awarded funding to initiate the Genetic Counseling Fellowship in ReSearch Training (GC-FIRST) Program. This two-year fellowship opportunity is designed to provide four genetic counselors the advanced training far beyond the four areas of basic research competency outlined by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC) for masters (MS) degrees needed to become genetic counseling research leaders. This program is also intended to prime fellows to gain the skills to become crucial mentors for future genetic counseling researchers. The next cohort of two fellows will begin in January 2025. The percent time is negotiable between 40-60% time (approximately 16-24 hours/week).

As part of the GC-FIRST Program, fellows will complete structured coursework, twelve research training modules, and practical genetic counseling research experiences.

Research Training Modules

  • History and Fundamentals of GC Research Module
  • Genetic counseling process & outcomes research
  • Quantitative Inquiry
  • Qualitative Inquiry
  • Systematic & Scoping Reviews
  • Clinical Trials and Biostatistics
  • Creating Equitable Measures
  • Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR)
  • Dissemination & Implementation (D&I) Research
  • Industry Research
  • Public & Population Health
  • Ethics Module

Structured Coursework

  • GCD 8916 - Genetic Counseling Research Seminar (spring, remote)
  • GCD 8171, Literature Analysis/Grant Proposal Writing Course (summer, in-person)
  • ABUS 4571W - Introduction to Grant Writing for Health Care and Nonprofit Organizations (spring, remote)

Practical Genetic Counseling Research Experiences

  • NSGC Practice Guideline Committee Research
  • Participation in the National Society of Genetic Counselors Annual Conference Meeting
  • Participation on Undergraduate and/or MS Student Committees


The GC-FIRST fellowships are intended to support the promotion of rigorous genetic counseling research into practice. Participants should be committed to this goal and be prepared for an intensive two years of research training that is practical, evidence-based, and tailored to their unique interests and expertise. Participants should be passionate about integrating genetic counseling research into their current roles or have an identified type of research role that they are interested in pursuing post-fellowship training. Types of roles that we envision these participants holding in the future could be research directors of genetic counseling programs, clinical researchers interested in studying genetic counseling processes or outcomes, researchers interested in genetic counseling interventions, mentors or advisors of student research projects, and directors of research in industry, public health, or other settings. Participants may be employed at large academic institutions, genetic counseling and testing companies, healthcare institutions, insurance companies, or departments of health. 

Educational Background & Characteristics

Genetic counselors applying for this grant must have completed a Master’s Degree in Genetic Counseling from an Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC) Accredited Training Program and be certified or eligible for certification. 

Eligibility Criteria

Fellowship applicants should be at least two years post-graduation of the MS training program before applying for the fellowship. This term was chosen to allow genetic counselors to gain experience and expertise post-graduation. After one-year post-graduation, genetic counselors can supervise students giving them an additional perspective on the genetic counseling process. Further this timeline allows for genetic counselors to better understand the organizational dynamics and systems influencing the practice of genetic counseling. If a genetic counseling license is required to practice within the state of residence or where they practice, applicants will be required to provide evidence of current licensure which also can take time to accomplish post-graduation.

Successful applicants will be those who have a track record of the following characteristics:

  1. Effective Communicator - Due to the potential remote nature of the program, we expect that participants will show a high level of communication of written and oral skills. This could be evidenced by the ability to work in a collaborative clinical team environment, experiences in telework, additional communication or counseling skills training, presentation at local / national meetings, and formal or informal writing experiences. 
  2. Collaborative Approach - We are seeking fellows that have shown that they can effectively work in collaborative work settings and leverage expertise from different disciplines or viewpoints to effectively lead the creation of new genetic counseling products (e.g. publications, educational products, genetic testing reports, etc). Other examples may include national or international committee work, volunteer experiences, clinical or industry improvement projects. 
  3. Ability to Work Independently and be Self-Motivated - The fellows will be working with a research team but will also need to be self-motivated to make progress on their individual research projects as well as other program associated outcomes. To do this, they will need to set monthly goals and work towards them at a pace that continues to make progress throughout the two-year period. They will also be responsible for balancing their fellowship responsibilities with their other work-related roles. Applicants will be expected to show that they have successfully worked independently and produced work that they set the direction and vision for in their genetic counseling role or responsibilities. 
  4. Curiosity and Creativity - Fellows should have an inquisitive nature and be generally interested in asking questions and furthering the field of genetic counseling with an innovative approach. Examples could include integrating research projects into their current roles, creating a new service model, expanding a clinical practice area, or investigating a new line of research.
  5. Leadership and Mentorship - The fellowship is intended for genetic counselors who will be leaders in research and are dedicated to the mentorship of the next generation of genetic counseling researchers. Because of this training program goal, prospective fellows will have shown a commitment to supporting the education of genetic counselors through teaching, supervising, or mentoring student research. They will also have experience leading projects, teams, committees, programs or organizations.

The GC-FIRST application will be due on July 15th and will require a personal and research statement. More information on the program and how to apply to the GC-FIRST Program can be found in the following overview video. In addition, you can sign up for brief one-on-one sessions with GC-FIRST Leadership and/or Current Fellows here.

GC-FIRST Program Overview with Dr. Heather Zierhut and Dr. Ian MacFarlane

Fellows Q&A Video with Kim Zayhowski and Emily Glanton