What is your role at JGenesPgh?
As Director, I have been successful in securing funding aimed at educating young people over the age of 18 and promoting genetic screening to provide knowledge and genetic counseling regarding their recessive genetic inheritance. Together with my early mentors of The Victor Center of Einstein Medical Center, (Philadelphia), I influenced the move to cover Jewish genetic screening for 19 diseases as a medical benefit by Highmark and the UPMC Health Plan.
How did the project begin?
A family whose daughter had Gaucher disaese, a condition where an enzyme is missing, asked for help to educate the community regarding Jewish genetic diseases. I was asked to help develop a promotion plan. I knew little about the topic and learned a lot by partnering with The Victor Center. Dr. David Finegold, MD, a Professor of Pediatrics, Medicine and Genetics and a local expert, acted as medical director to oversee the Pittsburgh effort.
My vision is for Pittsburgh to be part of a national, medically endorsed, broad-based force to institutionalize Jewish preconception screening and, to be a leader in this area in the greater Pittsburgh region. It is a community responsibility to provide access to information and medical screening so that it supports healthy Jewish families, and therefore, a stronger Pittsburgh community.
What is your strongest memory/ greatest achievement in this area?
I was instrumental in having the two major insurers in Western Pennsylvania cover a Jewish genetic panel of 19 diseases as a medical benefit; that is, one only needs a physician’s prescription to have the tests covered.
During the first three years of my work in Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh major insurers did not cover pre-conception screening. An analysis was undertaken to determine the cost of care for people with ten diseases most frequently found in Ashkenazi Jews. Shockingly, the study of one insurer in Western Pennsylvania (1996,1997,1998) discovered an average of $93 million a year for each of the three years was paid out for care. Insurance coverage is a major victory in our pre-conception screening efforts.
Dodie Roskies began her career as a physical therapist, followed by 25 years as a hospital administrator. She found she was vitally interested in improving the hospital and healthcare processes to support the efficiency and outcomes of the delivery of care.
When she retired from administration, she worked as a consultant for the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, where, among other accomplishments, she secured federal designation for and oversaw the development of the new Squirrel Hill Health Center, a federally qualified health center. She has spent many years as a volunteer in the Pittsburgh Jewish community, including acting as the Chair of Jewish Family and Children’s Service and, in the general community, as Chair of Compro, the program component of the Association of Retarded Citizens, now called Acheiva. Dodie is married to Professor Ralph Roskies and has three daughters and four grandchildren.