We recently sat down with Dr. Yael Joffe, Dietician & Geneticist, as part of our Born Seekers campaign. Yael is a nutrigenomics pioneer, who was born to create a new paradigm for nutrition and medicine, unlocking humankind’s potential to fight deadly diseases.
Q: Thank you for joining us. Would you please explain what your area of focus is?
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.
Q: What made you fall in love with science? Was there something that sparked your initial interest?
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?"
Q: Tell us about what you’re working on now.
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.
Q: What challenges have you faced as a woman working in your field?
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.
Q: What advice would you give the next generation of female scientists?
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.
Q: What do you think makes someone a Born Seeker? What qualities do you think are essential to becoming a Born Seeker?
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.