We are the hub of genetics teaching and research activities at the University of Pittsburgh as the only academic department that offers degrees at the MS and PhD levels in human genetics, as well as an MPH and certificate in public health genetics and an MS in genetic counseling. The department provides broad training in all aspects of human genetics (basic, applied, clinical) and prepares the next generation of human geneticists to serve in academia, medicine, government, and industry. We currently have 35 students pursuing the PhD, 23 pursuing the MS in genetic counseling, and 15 pursuing an MS or MPH.
This is a very exciting time to be involved in human genetics as the human genome has been deciphered and the race is on to elucidate the genetic bases of human diseases. Since the completion of the Human Genome Project, the role of genetics in medicine has increased exponentially, as identification of genetic factors for different diseases are helping to understand the underlying biological mechanisms that may one day lead to therapeutic treatment and prevention of disease.
We were the first human genetics department to be housed within a school of public health. As a result, our faculty's major research focus is to elucidate the genetic architecture of complex and common diseases of public health importance. Particular emphasis is being placed on the genetics of the following diseases: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, age-related macular degeneration, obesity, cancer, otitis media, Down syndrome, disorders of elastic fibers, demyelination disorders, lupus, Alzheimer's disease, and aging.
Our large statistical genetics group is actively involved in developing new statistical and bioinformatic methods for genetics research. We also have faculty involved in research on ethical issues in genetics research and the provision of genetics services, such as informed consent and the individual's experiences of facing genetic risk. The translation of this work to the public is a major focus of the genetics counseling and public health genetics programs.
In addition to our strengths in basic and applied research in human genetics, we also have one of the oldest and most respected teaching and training programs in genetic counseling in the country. Since its inception in the early 1970's, our genetic counseling program has produced hundreds of genetic counselors that serve families and patients afflicted with genetic diseases all across North America.
The faculty of the Department of Human Genetics works collaboratively with other faculty interested in human genetics within Pitt Public Health and in Pitts schools of medicine, nursing, and dental medicine, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Magee-Womens Hospital, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and the Cancer Genetics Program located at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Hillman Cancer and Magee-Womens Hospital. Almost all of these faculty members have secondary appointments in the Department of Human Genetics and they are involved in collaborative and/or teaching activities. Thus, our students have the opportunity to benefit directly from a diverse set of experts across the University.
I encourage you to tour our Web site to learn more about our training and research programs, and about our faculty, staff, and students. I, along with our dedicated faculty and staff, look forward to discussing our training and research programs with prospective students and trainees. Please feel free to contact us for further information.
Dietrich A Stephan, PhD