Chabad at UCF Hosts Screenings for Jewish Genetic Diseases

Jesse Slomowitz, a freshman film major, prepares for his screening for Jewish Genetic Diseases.

Chabad at UCF hosted screenings for Jewish Genetic Diseases at their weekly barbecue on March 15.

Representatives from the Victor Center for the Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami stopped at UCF on their trip around the country to raise awareness of these diseases. 

Dr. Arelis Martir-Negron is one of the representatives and is a geneticist at Nicklaus Children's Hospital. She wants people to be aware of what Jewish Genetic Diseases are.

There are several diseases the screenings test for, most notably Tay-Sachs disease, which is a common disorder in babies.

"These are recessive conditions that have maintained in the population because for years they have been a close community because of religions, because of customs," Martir-Negron said.

According to Hillel.org, UCF boasts the second largest number of Jewish students among public universities. This made Orlando a big stop on the Nicklaus Children's Hospital's journey.

Jesse Slomowitz, a freshman film major, is a regular at the weekly Chabad barbecues. When he heard about the screenings going on, this was one barbecue he knew he couldn't miss.

"Today, I made sure definitely to go because, you know, the genetic testing," Slomowitz said. "I want to make sure 100 percent where I stand on that."

Martir-Negron said people in Jewish communities can be carriers of genetic diseases and not know it.

To be sure, a number of UCF students took advantage of the free screenings.

While most of them do appear in Jews, professionals say a few of them can affect people of all backgrounds, like cystic fibrosis.

For this reason, Slomowitz believes that everyone should consider getting tested.

"You don't want to end up that people are in a relationship, that a person has the potential that gives their kids one of these diseases," Slomowitz said. "And certainly, you know, the kid has a disease and you're also now dealing with this emotional trauma."

The screening involves genetic counseling, filling out paper work then getting blood drawn. Patients will receive a phone call, as well as a formal letter in the mail with the results about four weeks later.

If you are interested in getting a screening done in Orlando, contact the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies at 321-841-8555.

Story originally published on March 18, 2016.

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