On Tuesday, November 18, Shalhevet Scholars, who participate in the science enrichment program, had an exciting evening on the town. The first stop was Stern College, where they attended a lecture by Dr. Susan Gross, professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and women’s health at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine. Dr. Gross discussed the different components of prenatal genetic testing as well as recent developments in the field. She raised many of the ethical issues involved in prenatal testing as well as the potential benefits. In the past, many of these tests posed a risk to the fetus, causing miscarriages. Traditionally, genetic testing is conducted when the fetus is already at a stage where halachah limits the options available to parents who receive devastating test results. On occasion, test results have been misinterpreted, resulting in the termination of a healthy pregnancy.
In order to prevent these problems, Dr. Gross is currently researching a new test in which fetal DNA can be separated from maternal DNA and analyzed for any abnormalities. This breakthrough may prove to radically change the field of prenatal genetics, as these tests can be performed without causing any harm to the mother or child and can be done within the first few weeks of a pregnancy. The lecture was both insightful and educational as the students learned new concepts and broadened their knowledge of genetics. Following the lecture, they were treated to dinner with the assistant principal and chairman of the Shalhevet science department, Mrs. Shaindy Lisker, at Mendy’s, where they continued to discuss the halachic and ethical issues of prenatal genetic testing. The Shalhevet Scholars are looking forward to more fun and academic programs to enrich their educational experience.