The Gittel Silverberg MS '74 Memorial Lecture

About the Gittel Silverberg Fund for Genetic Counselor Professional Development

Gittel Silverberg MS ’74Gittel Silverberg MS ’74 worked as a genetic counselor for 25 years, dedicating significant time and attention to teaching and guiding students, junior counselors, and residents. To honor her commitment to the profession and to extend her legacy, the Silverberg family established the Gittel Silverberg Memorial Lecture to support ongoing professional development for genetic counselors.

Previous Lectures

2020—The Role of Genetic Testing in Psychiatry: Past, Present, and Future​



Dr. Jordan Smoller is a psychiatrist, epidemiologist, and geneticist whose research focus has been 1) understanding the genetic and environmental determinants of psychiatric disorders across the lifespan; 2) integrating genomics and neuroscience to unravel how genes affect brain structure and function; and 3) using “big data”, including electronic health records and genomics, to advance precision medicine.

Dr. Smoller earned his undergraduate degree summa cum laude at Harvard University and his medical degree at Harvard Medical School.  After completing residency training in psychiatry at McLean Hospital, he received masters and doctoral degrees in epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. 

Dr. Smoller is the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Trustees Endowed Chair in Psychiatric Neuroscience, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. He is Associate Chief for Research in the MGH Department of Psychiatry and Director of both the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit and the Precision Medicine Research Unit in the MGH Center for Genomic Medicine. Dr. Smoller is a Tepper Family MGH Research Scholar and also serves as Director of the Omics Unit of the MGH Division of Clinical Research and co-Director of the Partners HealthCare Biobank at MGH. He is an Associate Member of the Broad Institute and Vice President of the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics.  He is Director of the Partners Healthcare Training Program in Precision and Genomic Medicine. He is lead PI of the New England Precision Medicine Consortium as part of the NIH All of Us Research Program. Dr. Smoller is also co- Chair of the All of Us Science Committee and a member of the Program’s Steering Committee and Executive Committee. He is an author of more than 400 scientific publications and is also the author of The Other Side of Normal (HarperCollins/William Morrow, 2012).

Director of Student Research at Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics at Sarah Lawrence College 

BA, Colgate. MA, Columbia University. MS, Sarah Lawrence College. In addition to coordinating all of the student research projects, she is also the director of the Ethics course and is facilitator of our Current Events/Monday Afternoon Discussion series. Laura is the co-founder of and regular contributor to The DNA Exchange, as well as the author of Anybody’s Miracle. SLC, 2004–


2017—Beyond the Trisomies

Assessing clinical utility and long term consequences as we expand the targets of prenatal genetic testing

An array of forces, including commercial pressure as well as improving technology, are expanding the options for prospective parents available through prenatal genetic testing. New offerings from cell-free fetal DNA providers, including microdeletion panels and genomic indel analysis, present an alternative to the more accurate results available through diagnostic testing. Genetic counselors must help prospective parents negotiate a long and constantly changing menu of prenatal tests. What is right now? How do we assess new tests as they enter the market? Where are we headed?

2017 Panelists


Susan J. GrossDr. Gross received her medical degree from the University of Toronto (Ontario, Canada), where she completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology, as well as a fellowship in Maternal Fetal Medicine and a second residency/fellowship in Medical Genetics at the University of Tennessee (Memphis). She is board certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Medical Genetics. Dr. Gross is a professor at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in the Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences and co-medical director of the clinical laboratory Sema4 Genomics. As Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Gross founded the Human Genetics Laboratory at Jacobi Medical Center, with a primary focus on prenatal screening and industry partnerships. Her professional focus on education has included the directorship of the medical genetics training program at Einstein, teaching future genetic counselors at Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics at Sarah Lawrence College and Vice-Chair of the RRC committee on medical genetics. She has worked on national and international guideline committees and has lectured and published extensively on prenatal screening and genetic testing with a focus on new technologies and public health policy. Dr. Gross was the Chief Medical Officer at Natera Inc., a company that developed a novel approach to fetal and tumor cell free DNA detection using SNP technologies. She served in that role from 2013 to 2016 and helped take the company public. She is currently the President and CEO of ‘The ObG Project,’ an open access, educational, mobile, eLearning website for women’s health providers.

Laura Hercher MS ’01, CGC

Laura HercherLaura Hercher MS ’01 is the Director of Student Research at the Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics at Sarah Lawrence College. A genetic counselor since 2001, Hercher’s teaching and research focuses on ethical, legal, and social issues in genetics and genomics. Her journalism and commentary have appeared in a variety of peer-reviewed and popular science publications, including Genome, Wired, Aeon, and Scientific American. She is co-founder of the DNA Exchange, a blog for the genetic counseling community, and a regular contributor for, where she co-hosts a monthly review of the biggest stories in genomics. Hercher was chair of the National Society of Genetic Counselor’s Ethics Advisory Group for four years, and is currently a member of the Public Policy Committee, where she has most recently led efforts to examine the ethical and social implications of our rapidly improving ability to edit the genome.

Her first novel, Anybody’s Miracle, was published in 2013.

Josephine Johnston, LLB, MBHL

Josephine-JohnstonJosephine Johnston is Director of Research and a Research Scholar at The Hastings Center, an independent bioethics research institute in Garrison, New York. She is an expert on the ethical, legal, and policy implications of biomedical technologies, particularly as used in human reproduction, psychiatry, genetics, and neuroscience. Ms. Johnston’s current projects address the ethical implications of prenatal tests, gene editing, and psychiatric, neurologic, and behavioral genetics, as well as the use of genetic sequencing technology in newborns. She holds degrees in law and bioethics from the University of Otago, New Zealand.

Blair Stevens, MS, CGC

Blair StevensBlair Stevens is an assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston’s McGovern Medical School. She graduated from the UT program in 2008 and obtained her certification in 2009. Blair still enjoys supervising and teaching students from the UT program and has served as thesis chair and committee member for multiple students.

Blair has a passion for helping patients with pregnancies affected with congenital anomalies and genetic conditions and has served as a Fetal Center genetic counselor since graduating, first with Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Children’s Hospital Fetal Center and now with the Fetal Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Blair also sees patients in UT’s high risk maternal fetal medicine clinic for routine indications such as abnormal screening results, significant family history, advanced maternal age, as well as pre-test counseling for average risk women.

In addition to clinical counseling and supervisions, Blair has been involved with the National Society of Genetic Counselors and Texas Society of Genetic Counselors. Blair served as the Prenatal Special Interest Group chair from 2011-2015 and is now the Chair of the Public Policy Committee. She also served as the Texas Society of Genetic Counselors president from 2014-2015.