Non-profit Community-based Public Health Initiative Dedicated to Preventing Jewish Genetic Diseases [Interview][Transcript]

Patricia Page_JScreen_program_Emory_UniversityGuest: Patricia Page
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Tricia Page is a Senior Director with the JScreen program at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. At Emory, Tricia has worked as the Director of Genetic Counseling Services, Program Manager for Newborn Screening, and the Assistant Director of the Genomics and Public Health Program. In her current position, Tricia focuses on improving the delivery of genetic services from both an individual and public health perspective, especially in the realm of preconception carrier screening.

Segment overview: In today’s Health Supplier Segment, we welcome Senior Director Patricia Page as she shares valuable information about the JScreen program. This is a multi-state public health initiative managed by Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Human Genetics, to give individuals and families easy access to information and to allow testing to be done conveniently from home.

Transcription

Health Professional Radio

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, thank you so much for joining us today. In studio today we have for this Health Supplier Segment Ms. Tricia Page. She’s senior director with the JScreen Program at Emory University Atlanta Georgia. Now after receiving her Bachelor in Science in Genetics from the University of Georgia, she received her Master’s Degree in Genetic Counseling from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston now in 1996, and her certification from the American board of medical genetics in 1999. She’s here today with us to talk about the JScreen Program and let us know exactly what it’s all about and the role that she plays in it. And how are you doing this afternoon Tricia?

Patricia Page: Great, thanks so much for having me.

N: Great, thank you so much. JScreen as I said is a program run out of Emory University in Atlanta Georgia. What exactly is JScreen?

P: Yeah. So JScreen is a Public Health Program like you said run out at Emory University. And our mission is to promote screening, specifically carrier screening that can be done like before pregnancy.

N: Uh huh.

P: And helps in preventing diseases that are more commonly in Jewish population. The “J” in JScreen obviously is because we’re focusing most of our marketing and outreach into the Jewish communities.

N: Uh huh.

P: So we absolutely, if you have even 1 Jewish grandparent, it’s important to have screening done before pregnancy. It’s also something that really every group is at risk for something. And it’s important that really everyone has screening done. And while everyone who’s planning on pregnancy, not everyone in the world. But if you’re planning a pregnancy definitely you should consider having what’s called an “expanded carrier screening” and that can give you really valuable information to help you plan for a healthy family.

N: Expanded carrier screening, is that any different than any other screening that’s going on?

P: Well so in the past, people have been screened for say one condition. So if you are African American, you were screened for like sickle cell disease. Caucasian women maybe screened for something like cystic fibrosis. But it’s really amazing Neal that technology has advanced to where they can, our program at JScreen we actually created for over a hundred different conditions on a single test.

N: On one single test?

P: Yeah. And it’s just a saliva test too. You don’t even have to get blood anymore.

N: So it’s not invasive at all?

P: No, in fact the way JScreen works is we actually mail the kit. We get a doctor’s orders because that’s required and then we mail a kit to people’s houses, so they don’t even have to going to the doctor. And then when they’re results are ready we have Board Certified License Genetic Counselors that will explain this to like to a couple and talk about what their options are. And most of the time it’s reassuring, thankfully.

N: Uh huh.

P: But if it’s not, then they at least have found the information and can plan.

N: You say over a 100 different conditions are screened on one test. Are we talking about everything from say cancer to a diabetes? Are we talking about these types of diseases?

P: Wait so that’s a great question, so no. But the conditions that we are talking about are that a person might unknowingly pass on to their children. So these are things like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease … the conditions that you’re talking about – cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes – in some situations … testing is available for those. But for most people like kind of variety cancer, Alzheimer’s, we just don’t know what all the genetic components are yet. But we are pretty focused on looking on reproductive health and not really personal health information.

N: Now how long has the JScreen Program been operating out of Emory University?

P: Yes. So happily we’ve been around, we just celebrated our 2nd birthday at September.

N: Ah okay.

P: So we’re relatively a young program.

N: Uh huh. And you say you have Genetic Counselors. Now are these counselors, do they come straight from Emory? Are they trained specifically by JScreen for JScreen efforts? Or can anyone who would like to be a genetic counselor simply put in an application to JScreen?

P: Right, so that is a great question. So all of our counseling now is done either through the laboratory that we use or through Emory. And so as their volume grows, we certainly expect that we’ll need additional genetic counselors. And so yeah, I mean I’m always happy to hear from people who are interested. And there’s not enough genetic counselor out there to handle all the needs. So if there is someone’s specifically interested in this, then yeah I’d absolutely love to hear from them.

N: Now with the sweeping changes in healthcare coverage, is this testing covered say by healthcare? By your regular run of the mill healthcare or do you have to have some type of special coverage in order to take this test?

P: Right, so many people are covered. But we know that’s a fear that a lot of people have and may keep them from having testing. And so … our program what we do is we just charge a $99 programs fee.

N: Okay.

P: And that covers the test, that covers your genetic counseling, basically everything you needed to it. And so even if your insurance will pay nothing, then our people who come to our program are ever gonna pay is the $99.

N: Ah okay. And as we wrap, up are you working on anything current to enhance the services that you already provide?

P: Yes. So we are constantly thinking about additional conditions that we might add onto the … it’s amazing the field of genetics is changing so fast that we’re constantly learning and adding. And what surprises me in the next years we’re screening for more than a hundred of conditions.

N: Now what’s the main or the I guess the biggest misconception about JScreen that you’d like to clear up for our listeners today?

P: Yeah, I think that people sometimes think if you have this kind of genetic testing done, if you get news …that’s difficult to hear that we’re gonna say “you shouldn’t have children” or you know what you goanna do, you don’t have options. But actually there are many options for couples today to have to go on and to have healthy children. And the technologies are more affordable portable and more testable than really ever before. So it’s really information that you can use in a practical way.

N: Great. And where can our listeners get much more information about JScreen and Emory University?

P: Yes. So it’s really easy just go to jscreen.org and there’s information there as well as a ‘contact us’ and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.

N: Great, thank you so much for joining us today Tricia.

P: Thank you for having me.

N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. It’s been a pleasure talking in studio today with Ms. Tricia Page Senior Director with the JScreen Program at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. And in her current position, she’s focusing on improving the delivery of genetic services from both in individual and public health perspective, especially in the realm of preconception carrier screening. She is the Senior Director with JScreen, as I said, and she’s actually educating the community about the importance of genetic screening to help keep future families healthy. It’s been great having you here today.

P: Thank you so much.

N: Transcript and audio of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.com and you can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.

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