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My Journey into the World of Genetics, Medicine and Technology

Welcome to my blog post #1 describing my foray into the world at the intersection of medicine, genetics and technology

I have been a frequent and interesting patient to my various doctors over the years. From having braces, crowns and implants adorn my mouth, to having multiple fractures and a tibia rebuilt around a titanium rod, to having discs in my cervical spine replaced with artificial ones, to being diagnosed with coronary heart disease, to having thyroid fluctuations dealt with, I have learnt more about the different specialties in medicine than I expected to know. Being an engineer by training and having convinced myself in the eighth grade that I hated biology (in spite of having an amazing teacher in Mrs. Zacharias), I have had no medical training nor did I have any real desire or interest in understanding what was happening to my body all this time. 

However, that all started to change about 5 years ago when first my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and, after she passed, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Accompanying them to their various oncologist visits over the years, I experienced, like many others who have had loved ones navigate the dreaded cancer journey, what it means to try and make sense of all the jargon thrown at you while dealing with the emotional and physical trauma associated with it. For the first time, I realized that the more I educate myself about the basics of the human body, read up on the latest medical and technology innovations and understand their pros and cons from a clinical perspective, the more I will be able to have more intelligent conversations with doctors as well as make better choices when it comes to my health and the health of those around me. In the process I have also realized how much I enjoy this subject.

I made three conscious decisions in order to truly commit to this new path: 

  1. First, I decided to get a better handle on the fundamentals of medicine and biology. I did this by doing courses on Khan Academy, reading a few recommended books and doing a 4 course online session on genomics and genetics at Stanford, over a 6 month period. This doesn’t even remotely make me a doctor but it allows me to understand the basics and the terminology so I can have more intelligent conversations with the domain experts.
  2. Next, I joined one of my longtime friends from 3rd grade onward, Nikhil Phadke, on his mission at GenePath Diagnostics, Inc., to democratize the power of genetics and molecular diagnostics so as to provide better quality of care to patients in the areas of oncology, infectious diseases and genetic disorders. Just being around Nikhil and the rest of the amazing team of doctors, scientists and engineers on a daily basis, I have been learning the practical, human and innovative aspects of medicine and genetics.
  3. Finally, I decided to experiment on myself (and any willing volunteers) with the latest and greatest innovations in the medical sensor and technology space, to look for insights that could be game changing. From using Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM) 24 hours a day to evaluate the impact of everything I eat on my blood sugar levels in order to figure out the perfect diet for me as well as avoid getting diabetes, to understanding the impact that my genes have on my ability to metabolize different medications in order to understand which medications will work for me and which won’t, to working with the South Asian Heart Center to understand the markers specific to South Asians that better predict heart disease, I am continually testing the theories on myself so I can speak more intelligently about it.

Moving forward, I will share key insights and observations from my own experiences and provide explanations whenever I have them as well as invite inputs from the experts to validate my views or provide alternative explanations. If you are interested in getting an email every time I write a new blog post on similar topics, here is the link to subscribe.

Nickhil