Before Dr. James Goldberg joined Counsyl as its Chief Medical Officer he was a client. In the nine years he worked as a partner at San Francisco Perinatal Associates, he talked to hundreds of patients about the value of expanded carrier screening. In the course of assuring them that the Family Prep Screen is affordable and reliable, he became intrigued by the organization behind it. It didn’t hurt that three of the genetic counselors he’d worked with ended up joining the Counsyl team and could vouch for it.
By the time Counsyl reached out to him he was already receptive. The query came at a time when Dr. Goldberg was also considering making a major career change. “I sat back recently and realized I’d have the biggest impact on genetic medicine if I could come at it from the industry side,” he says. “Then I just had to decide where best to do that. Since I’ve known Counsyl for a long time and know they do good work the decision was actually pretty easy.”
In his new job as CMO, Dr. Goldberg will focus on increasing awareness of expanded screening within the medical community and finding effective ways to implement new screening tests. He already sees an uptick in acceptance based on the increasing information available. It’s now much easier for doctors to provide educational support. When couples were tested for only two or three disorders a typical counseling session included detailed discussions on each one. Now, with a test that screens for more than 100 diseases, there’s been a shift to talking about the diseases only if a risk has been identified. If a couple is not found to be at increased risk, counseling remains optional.
Dr. Goldberg first became excited about the potential of reproductive medicine as a graduate student at the University of Minnesota Medical School when the field was just taking off. Prenatal screening was brand new and typically recommended for couples with known family histories or specific ethnic backgrounds. But Dr. Goldberg, who eventually earned a masters in genetics and after medical school, residency, and a fellowship went on to practice reproductive genetics, recognized its potential almost immediately. “I committed to this field of study because it had the most direct and quickest applications that could be brought into clinical care,” he says. New discoveries could be rapidly applied to patient care.
When it came time to do his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology he chose the University of California, San Francisco – and balmy weather. The Bay Area suited him. “I had no idea life could be so good,” says Dr. Goldberg, who has lived here ever since. His 30-year-long career includes serving as the director of the Reproductive Genetics Unit at UCSF and subsequently as co-director of the Prenatal Diagnosis Center at California Pacific Medical Center. At San Francisco Perinatal Associates he was director of the Prenatal Diagnosis Center. A well-respected researcher, Dr. Goldberg has worked closely with ACOG, among other notable organizations, and co-authored its recent release on expanded carrier screening. He will continue to organize and oversee clinical studies within Counsyl. “I’ve experienced the full length of the clinical spectrum in reproductive genetics,” he says.
Dr. Goldberg lives with his wife, Vicki, in Tiburon and “dimly” remembers undergoing screening when she was pregnant with his oldest daughter who is now a 27-year-old lawyer in Boston. “I think it was for Tay-Sachs,” he says. He has moved into Counsyl’s East Wing, in the cubicle next to the white board that says “Welcome Jim” (for now, anyway), and is looking forward to meeting everyone. “I’m hoping people will reach out to me with any concerns or questions,” he says. “I want to be a resource for any clinical issues that may come up.”