The Gittel Silverberg MS ’74 Memorial Lecture

2017 Lecture—
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?

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.



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.