Meet the Born Seekers: Q&A with Dr. Yael Joffe
I’m a dietician and a geneticist. We call the field nutrigenomics. It’s really the relationship between nutrition and genetics, and how they work together.
My path to becoming a scientist is actually quite a strange one. I had absolutely no intention of becoming a scientist, whatsoever. I loved art, I loved history, I studied architecture. That was really my dream, to be an architect.
And then my grandmother got very ill from cancer. She got a GI cancer, and by the time the doctors had found it, it was too late to help her. I was really, really close to my grandmother. I spent a lot of time sitting by her bed thinking, “This just doesn’t seem right. You know, how come we couldn’t have prevented it?”
And it was actually just one of those kind of epiphanies. I thought, “I’m not going back to architecture.” So I chose dietetics as my first degree, complete disappointment. But I knew what my end goal was. And my end goal was, “How do I prevent my gran from getting cancer?”
The work that I do, really, is to bring genetics into nutrition, and to change the way that we practice nutrition and medicine, based on this new science.
The way my work is pushing boundaries is to create the idea that there is a new way of practicing nutrition, a new paradigm for nutrition and medicine, but more than that, it’s almost reimagining what it means to be a health professional.
I think for me, in my career, the greatest challenge has been trying to create a new paradigm, trying to break boundaries. When everyone was saying, “This is the field. This is how we do it. This is what we believe.”, I was absolutely convinced that we could do better, and we could know more.
It actually doesn’t matter whether she goes on to be a fashion designer, or to be a geneticist, or to be a vet, is that she has to keep on learning, and she has to challenge, challenge, challenge.
For me, as a born seeker, what I’d really like to challenge is this idea that we’ve got to keep on asking questions. We’ve got to keep on challenging the science, or the knowledge, that we think is the status quo.