A high school science class discussion about how genetic traits are passed down from one generation to another inspired Tuya Pal to pursue a career in clinical genetics.
“I always loved genetics, and even as far back as high school that’s what I wanted to do,” Pal said. “I just found it fascinating how traits are inherited across generations.”
Pal is a physician who specializes in cancer health disparities among diverse populations. She joins the School of Medicine faculty as associate professor of medicine and Ingram Associate Professor of Cancer Research. She also serves as associate director of Cancer Health Disparities at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.
Born and raised in Canada, Pal received her medical degree from McGill University in Montreal and completed a residency in pediatrics at Washington University in St. Louis. That was followed by a fellowship in clinical genetics at the Hospital for Sick Children at the University of Toronto.
As a faculty member in the Vanderbilt Hereditary Cancer Clinic, Pal’s clinical and research efforts are focused on individuals with inherited cancer risk across diverse populations. In her new role, she hopes to enhance the availability of new genetic and genomic technologies across all populations, including efforts focused on racial and ethnic minorities and underserved populations.
If we think about genetic testing, we know that most testing has occurred in highly educated and primarily non-Hispanic white populations.
“If we think about genetic testing, we know that most testing has occurred in highly educated and primarily non-Hispanic white populations. Even our own research across a diverse group of young breast cancer survivors has shown that blacks and Hispanics have much lower testing rates, which may be the result of lower awareness and access to genetic testing among racial and ethnic minorities,” she said.
Beyond genetic testing, Pal is concerned that the benefits from genetic testing are only realized if people use this information to be proactive about their health. Yet research from her group suggests that there are substantial differences in follow-up care across populations. Pal said she is proud to join a Vanderbilt team that is working to improve those trends.
Prior to joining the Vanderbilt faculty, Pal was a faculty member at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, for more than 15 years. She is widely published and has received multiple research grants from the National Cancer Institute as well as private foundations.
View the complete list of new Vanderbilt University faculty for 2017-18.