Using your Unique Genetic Code to combat Disease

Dr. Nisha Dogra is a Medical Geneticist and the President of Advanced Genomics Inc.

After completing a Doctoral degree from Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh, she completed her Post doctoral from University of Montreal. She is a Faculty of Medicine at University of British Columbia and has earned a health care management degree from Touro University in California.

Passionate about Genes and how they affect the human body, she is the author of several scientific publications in international journals. She is recognized in Cambridge Who’s Who directory for her contribution to the field of Medical Genetics.

Dr. Dogra talked to us about her passion for medical genetics and this fascinating field that incorporates areas such as gene therapy and personalized medicine.

How and why did you venture into the field of medical genetics?

While doing my Masters in Life Sciences, I came across the new emerging field of Genes and Genomes. I became fascinated by it. To know more about genes and diseases, I undertook a five year project in my PhD thesis.  It is amazing that disease starts from a very small level, but slowly affects our system in a negative way. My PhD was to find out from where the disease starts, what the pathway of the disease is, and how it slowly becomes deadly. The realization of the importance of Genes and the general ignorance about it in our society really inspired me to work in this field on a large scale.

Post marriage I moved to Chandigarh and worked at PGI and the Institute of Microbial Technology, as a scientist.  I became an expert in finding out the pathways of various diseases and published a lot of research papers. Later I came to the University of Montreal. The subject of my research in Montreal was, “Finding out the pathway of disease at a genomic level”.

Can you tell us more about genes and genomes?

Our body is made of cells. In the cell we have a nucleus and chromosomes. Inside the chromosomes we have genes which regulate our different systems.

Genome is taking a look at all genes collectively. Genome gives us a clear picture of the whole body inside out. This is a very different approach as compared to some of the modern tests which look at the body at a physical level. Unlike other methods of disease diagnose, diagnosis from our genome is very accurate and take into account our unique genetic makeup.

Why is it so important for genes to be considered for medical diagnosis?

Right now all the tests that are done to diagnose disease are at the physical level or to a very small extent chemical level.

It is well known that the diseases that your ancestors carried can strike you as well. You are genetically more prone to those diseases. For clarity and accuracy in medical diagnosis, genes are a very important factor to consider.

Tell us something about your transition from an academic scientist to a medical geneticist in the community?

My passions got engaged when I observed the impact of disease in our society and how it affects the well being of individuals and families. I strive to create awareness on health and its importance.

If one family member gets sick, it affects the whole family. Once a disease traps you, it leads to more diseases, our medications lead to complex side effects and this vicious circle never ends. Most of the medicines given for diseases have to be taken throughout your life span. They are not there to cure but only prolong the disease. The waiting times at hospitals are ever increasing. The time that you should be spending productively with your family is spent in hospitals.

That’s when I decided to work at the grass root level, to create more awareness about diagnosis at the level of the genome. My experience in this field has helped thousands of patients with disease prevention and management.

Tell us something about your patient’s experiences with medical genetics?

We work with a personal level approach. Some of the testimonials I get are that patients feel comfortable in openly discussing their issues and concerns. Communication is clear and disease is demystified in a very simple way.

When my patients tell me that they are more mindful of their health and this has impacted their family in a positive way that is real job satisfaction for me.

By Jasleen Kaur