Tidewater Jewish Genetic Screening provides vital information for future generations

by | Mar 21, 2014 | Other News

Dr. Michael Gross with Aaron Shames. Photo by Laine Rutherford

Dr. Michael Gross with Aaron Shames. Photo by Laine Rutherford

One hundred and sixty-two community members participated in the Tidewater Jewish Genetic Screening in December at the Sandler Family Campus. A make-up day for college students took place in January. The screening was a partnership between Jewish Family Service of Tidewater, Eastern Virginia Medical School, the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Maimonides Society and Young Adult Division, as well as local synagogues.

The screening tested for 19 preventable genetic disorders, including Tay Sachs, Canavan, Niemann-Pick, Gaucher, Familial Dysautonomia, Bloom Syndrome, Fanconi Anemia and Cystic Fibrosis.

In the Ashkenazi population or those of Eastern European descent, it is estimated that one in four individuals is a carrier for at least one of these conditions. The screening found that 35 percent of those tested were carriers for at least one of these conditions. Plus, 20 additional individuals were found to have an “atypical” result – meaning he/ she is not a carrier, but genetic screening for future generations is recommended.

Other interesting statistics from the screening included that only one married couple were both carriers of the same condition. Also, the number of carriers exceeded the expected frequency for some of the conditions, including the following: five individuals were carriers for Canavan Disease, compared to the expected frequency of one in 55 and 12 individuals were carriers of Gaucher Disease, compared to an expected frequency of one in 15.

All individuals identified as carriers received personal contact and consultation/ follow-up (if they chose) with the genetic counselors from the EVMS Maternal Fetal Medicine Department. All individuals who were tested received a letter and a copy of the results in the mail.

Many members of the community made the screening possible. Dr. Steve Warsof from EVMS served as medical director for the screening, with the help of other physicians, medical professionals, clergy and volunteers who served on the Screening Advisory Committee. Avraham and Patricia Ashkenazi, on behalf of Congregation Beth El, underwrote the cost of the screening for those without medical insurance. Local rabbis sponsored “Blue Gene Shabbats” to increase awareness in the Jewish community.

Dr. Sue Gitlin, instructor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Jones Institute of EVMS, coordinated all clinical logistics prior to, during and after the screening. Dr. Warsof, Dr. Gitlin and a genetic counslor were at the screening to answer questions from participants. Monique Lubaton, who is pursuing graduate education in genetics, was also instrumental in assisting Dr. Gitlin with the clinical logistics prior to and during the screening.

The medical professionals who donated their time to draw blood at the screening include: Dr. Michael Gross, Dr. Marc Abrams, Dr. Samantha Vergano, Allison Madore, RN, Lucy Cardon, RN, Abby Pachter, RN, Susan Schwartzman, RN, Pam Blais, RN, Dave Becker, Dawn Tharrington and Linda Samuels. Other volunteers who assisted at the screening included Kim Gross, Janet Yue, Patty Wainger, Marcia Samuels, Susan Katz, Jody Laibstain, and Mike Lloyd.

Look for upcoming information in the Jewish News on ongoing genetic screening opportunities.

Jewish Family Service is a constituent agency of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.