Zoya Retiwalla

Zoya Ayaz Retiwalla, Medical Genomics

Zoya Ayaz Retiwalla, Medical Genomics
Program: Master of Health Science, Medical Genomics, University of Toronto, Class of 2020

Having originally completed my graduate studies in Biotechnology, I wanted to make a positive difference in the field of healthcare. I thought the only two choices I had to achieve this goal were to either go to medical school or work as a lab researcher. I was, however, interested in being exposed to different streams beyond medicine and traditional research. To broaden my horizon, I decided to explore the business side of science.

While I was doing great professionally, a family tragedy made me rethink my trajectory. My cousin was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia caused by a genetic mutation he carried since birth. He survived following a bone marrow transplant, but it was daunting to find a match for him. This experience was life-changing for me. I uprooted myself from a comfortable life in Mumbai to pursue my dream of advancing public knowledge about genetics and bridging the growing gap between genomics innovations and their translation.

I began my quest for graduate programs that would allow me to grow both personally and professionally by providing the right mix of exposure and hands-on learning. My forage ended at the Medical Genomics Program offered by the University of Toronto. It is a ground-breaking, interdisciplinary Masters under the Faculty of Medicine that helps prepare students for a new era in healthcare. Being a part of the first cohort of this degree gave me access to innovative courses taught by leading researchers and professors in the field and links to numerous hospitals and incubators within Toronto.

Medical Genomics has exposed me to varied personal and professional development opportunities. The program also introduced me to new career options that I never knew existed. For instance, I learned the importance of the role finance, business, and communication play in translating research. There are numerous intelligent researchers with great ideas and findings. If they 1. Don’t have the capital backing them to continue their research, 2. Don’t have the business acumen to market their research, and 3. If the lack of communication keeps building silos, impactful research may never reach those who need it.  Having had an interest and knack for business, science, and communication, I was ecstatic to learn that I would be able to amalgamate all three into a career.

Presently, I work at Ontario Genomics, a not-for-profit organization, where I bring together communication, research translation, and business in a real-life work environment.

Genomics, quite literally, holds the key to human existence, making its elucidation imperative. Every day, I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to help bring meaningful research into translation and usher in impactful change in the field of healthcare. All of this would not have been possible without the quality education and the unwavering support of the instructors and mentors at the Medical Genomics program.

Looking ahead, I particularly anticipate being involved in the integration of genomics innovations into clinical practice.  Furthermore, I aspire to set up a non-profit to help people manage various genetic disorders and to provide accessible and personalized healthcare to numerous patients and families. I am happy to talk to anyone who wants to learn more about the program or about the field of genomics in general.

Alum of Zoya Ayaz Retiwalla, Medical Genomics