CJG Blog

Center for Jewish Genetics blog

Meet Genetic Counselor Rebecca Wang, MS

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Rebecca Wang, MS

From Rebecca: 

I am thrilled to be joining the team at the Norton & Elaine Sarnoff Center for Jewish Genetics! I am originally from the San Francisco Bay Area and completed my bachelors degree in Human Biology and Society at UCLA. During this time, I was very involved with the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics and became interested in the interdisciplinary field of genetic counseling. After completing my bachelors degree, I worked at a genetic testing laboratory as an operations associate. Eager to have a role in direct patient care, I made a cross country move to Chicago to attend the Northwestern University Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling. In addition to receiving my masters degree in Genetic Counseling at Northwestern, I also completed coursework in Medical Humanities and Bioethics. I love being a genetic counselor because I have the chance to help people use cutting edge technologies to make informed decisions about their health. In my free time, I enjoy biking by the lake, playing board games, and exploring the amazing food scene of Chicago!

You can reach me at RebeccaWang@juf.org or 312-357-4658.

Genetic Shabbat 2017: Giving Back By Participating in Medical Research

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The Torah recognizes the need for each of us to take responsibility for our health in order to be able to keep the commandments and fulfill our purpose in the world. Genetic Shabbat – which takes place with Parshiyot Tazria and Metzorah on April 28 - May 4 – teaches us how to be proactive about our health and the health of others. 

This year, our message focuses on giving back by participating in medical research. We are a generous community and we give of ourselves in many important ways: through tzedakah, through volunteer work, and through random acts of kindness, just to name a few. We frequently devote our time, energy and resources to caring for others and helping those in need. So why call attention to another way of giving?

Medical research has the power to transform the lives of individuals, families and even entire communities. Through research, we have identified Jewish risks for genetic disorders and, in the case of Tay-Sachs, virtually eliminated new cases. Thanks to the selfless contributions of many men and women, a team in Israel developed an innovative treatment for Gaucher disease, a rare but potentially debilitating condition that is 100 times more common in Jews than in the general population.   

Researchers supported by The Michael J. Fox Foundation are now exploring a genetic connection between Gaucher disease and Parkinson’s disease. These diseases have been linked to the same genetic mutation, one that’s found more frequently in Ashkenazi Jews. The Norton & Elaine Sarnoff Center for Jewish Genetics is helping to spread the word about this important research – and other worthy studies – and we are asking for your help in the following ways: 

Every Shabbat, we should remind ourselves to be thankful for the blessing of good health. On Genetic Shabbat, please consider how you can contribute to advancing the health of future generations.

Have questions or want additional information? Contact Sarah Goldberg at (312) 357-4994 or SarahGoldberg@juf.org

DNA Day 2017

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National DNA Day commemorates the successful completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA's double helix in 1953. The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) began celebrating DNA Day annually on April 25th after the 108th Congress passed concurrent resolutions designating it as DNA Day. The goal of National DNA Day is to offer students, teachers and the public an opportunity to learn about and celebrate the latest advances in genomic research and explore how those advances might impact their lives.

The Norton & Elaine Sarnoff Center for Jewish Genetics has been celebrating DNA Day in Illinois since 2008 in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Public Health and Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work. The Center reaches out to 100 health departments around the state each year to educate nurses and clients about the importance of family health history and newborn screening in diagnosing rare and common diseases in order to improve health and save lives. Original materials are created and an educational webinar is held in cooperation with the Illinois Critical Access Health Network offering one free hour of continuing education credit for nurses that participate. This year’s offering is Better Together: Culturally Competent Nursing Practice to Achieve Better Birth Outcomes for Latina and African-American Mothers. For more information or to register, visit: icahn.org/professional-education/programs/?id=229.

But the larger mission of educating the general public about the latest advances in genomic research and its impact on individuals and families should not be overlooked. Rapid advances in genetic technology since the completion of the Human Genome Project has allowed physicians and researchers to use information about a person’s genetic make up to prevent, diagnose and treat disease. This new approach to medicine is called personalized or precision medicine as the focus is on identifying which approaches will be effective for which patients based on genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.

Pharmacogenomics, an outgrowth of precision medicine, is the study of how genes affect a person’s response to particular drugs. This relatively new field combines pharmacology (the science of drugs) and genomics (the study of genes and their functions) to develop effective, safe medications and doses that will be tailored to variations in a person’s genes. This methodology is currently being used successfully in some cancer treatments where specific information about a person’s tumor is used to plan and monitor individualized care. 

"Probably at no time in the history of medical research has there been more potential and promise for discovery that will benefit mankind in terms of the health of the species as where we are right now as a result of the Human Genome Project."[1]  And that’s something to celebrate on National DNA Day this year!

[1] McMullan, Dawn, What is Personalized Medicine? It’s a changing world of healthcare. What you need to know about the movement fueled by genomic testing and tailored treatment.http://genomemag.com/what-is-personalized-medicine/#.WOfx2IWcE2w


Affordable, Accessible Genetic Screening in Illinois

Our affordable, accessible carrier screening program uses advanced technology to provide comprehensive screening for Jewish and interfaith couples. Visit our Get Screened page to learn more and register.


Do You Know What's In Your Genes?

What is the most valuable gift you can give to your family? The gift of good health! There are many health conditions that run in families. Knowing your family health history can alert you to the potential risk for a variety of genetic disorders . Talk to your relatives for warning signs and assess your risk for hereditary cancers.

Did you know: Ashkenazi Jews are 10 TIMES more likely to have BRCA mutations, which significantly increases lifetime risks for hereditary cancers, so what does this heightened risk mean for you? Click here to learn more .