Medical Ethics Society Partners with JScreen to Bring Free Genetic Testing to YU Student Body
In partnership with and funded primarily by JScreen, a renowned genetic testing organization, the Yeshiva University Medical Ethics Society will provide all YU students with free genetic testing—which usually costs $99—at the upcoming Seforim Sale. To help spread awareness of the importance of screening for genetic diseases, all members of the greater Jewish community are invited to take part in the screening process, which will be conveniently offered on the Wilf and Barren campuses. The test which will be administered screens for over 100 genetic diseases that are common within the Jewish community. The YU Roshei Yeshiva recently published a letter strongly encouraging students to participate in some form of genetic testing prior to commencing the dating process or beginning a serious relationship.
Unlike most forms of genetic screening, JScreen extracts and tests samples of saliva, which contains the same DNA extracted from blood, the more commonly used method to analyze DNA for genetic diseases. Students who are unable to attend the event can deposit their DNA samples in a kit that can be ordered from JScreen.org. According to Rebecca Garber, co-president of the YU Medical Ethics Society, genetic testing has not been offered at the Seforim Sale in previous years, nor has campus screening been free or available to those who did not attend YU.
In a recent interview, Garber stated that the invitation to all Jewish students is predicated upon the belief that every Jew should be tested for these potentially harmful diseases. She posited that YU students are “fortunate enough to go to a school that satisfies this need for us” in many ways—such as YU screening events at Einstein or other on campus initiatives.
“However, many of our peers do not have this opportunity readily available to them. We recognize this lack and hope to include as many people as possible.” Garber discussed how the Medical Ethics Society has “been working tirelessly with JScreen to ensure that not only the entire student body at YU gets screened, but also that we can extend the screening to all undergraduate and post graduate students, regardless of whether or not they are YU affiliated. Ultimately, our goal is to get as many young [Jewish] adults of marriageable age screened as possible. Our only requirement is that the participants be 18 years or older.”
Echoing Garber’s message, fellow president of the MES Ari Garfinkel expressed that “this event is one of the most important events that the Medical Ethics Society runs. All of our other events tend to be educational or about theoretical topics, but this is a practical and important service that the Jewish community needs and we get to provide it. This is Medical Ethics in the real world.” Garfinkel also encouraged students who are not currently dating to partake in the testing, for “having genetic testing done and dating don’t necessarily need to be connected. There are certainly obvious reasons to get tested before entering a serious relationship or when getting engaged. However, knowing what conditions you may be predisposed to can be vital in taking the necessary precautions to staying healthy.”
In contrast to other forms of screening, JScreen actually shares the test results with the patients while maintaining confidentiality. Although the screening will take place at the Seforim Sale, it will still be done in a private manner. As such, there will be two screening locations: one at Stern, for students who do not want to travel to Washington Heights, and a location at the Wilf Campus.
*A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that genetic screening had been conducted at the Seforim Sale in the past.