Earlier this year, third-year medical student Cherry Jain presented a live panel on Asian TV channel Venus TV with the aim of raising awareness of genetic conditions within the Asian community.
24 September 2018
Joining Cherry and the show’s regular host was a paediatrician who had an interest in genetic conditions. The show was watched live by over 10,000 people, with Cherry acting as a representative of the general public, asking questions intended to inform the audience on these issues.
“I wanted to raise awareness of genetic conditions, particularly within the Asian population. Our guest paediatrician mentioned that although people of Pakistani origin make up around two per cent of the UK population, the Pakistani community accounts for as much as a third of all genetic conditions in the UK. Having a medical background, it was easy for me to ensure that what was being discussed could be translated into plain English, and I could ask questions about things the general population would want to know – it was much more of a conversation, which I think facilitated participation from people at home.”
Cherry also led the discussion on topics such as the effects of a smaller gene pool emerging from ‘cousin marriages’ and the implications that this could have on the likelihood that children within these marriages would be born with a genetic medical condition.
“We didn’t want to tell people whether entering into ‘cousin marriages’ was wrong or right, as this itself does not predetermine whether a child would be born with a genetic condition; it’s the presence of faulty genes that may occur within a family and have a higher chance of expressing themselves in ‘cousin marriages’. We just wanted to present the medical facts so that people can be fully informed.”
Being an advocate of women’s empowerment, Cherry wanted to use this opportunity to debate the issue of people within some Asian cultures preferring to have male children over female children, particularly in India and China.
“In some cases, this phenomenon has led to an imbalance between the number of men and women in these cultures, meaning that people are looking abroad to find a partner for marriage. This has quite a large impact on environmental factors, and of course, the genetics of the population.”
During the show, members of the public also had the opportunity to phone-in and have questions related to their own conditions answered by Cherry and the panel, and find out where to go for more information.
“My biggest advice to people would be to go to your GP if you are worried. GPs can offer you genetic testing and counselling, and you can ask them anything you need to know. There’s also a lot of information online, including various support pages, but be sure to read a number of sources as the information is often quite general. It’s key to look for information relevant to the Asian population.”
The full show is available to watch below.
Cherry has a knack for balancing her extracurricular work with her studies as a student in the School of Medicine and Dentistry. She has been working on a number of research projects, one of which was looking into whether the socioeconomic background of patients with multiple sclerosis affects their choice of treatment. The project involved around 300 patients and was published in Neurology in the United States. Cherry is also the President of the Barts and The London Ear, Nose and Throat Society which she founded this September.
Cherry also volunteers as a committee member of the Teddy Bear Hospital Volunteering Group, visiting hospitals and educating early-primary schoolchildren about the anatomy of the body and healthy eating through the aid of teddy bears, encouraging them not to be scared when they visit the doctor or the dentist.
Last year, we published a profile on Cherry as she competed in the Miss India UK 2017 pageant, winning ‘Most Photogenic’. Since then she has competed in another international pageant reaching the finals, and has had opportunities to engage in freelance modelling work to build her portfolio as a result.
Cherry commented: “It was amazing to reach the final of the competition! A Bollywood star who once held the title of Miss World presented the crown to the winner, so we had the opportunity to meet her too. It’s great to have the chance to carry on with my modelling work while being a medical student and continuing with my other projects.”
Queen Mary’s East London Genes & Health project is a long-term study of 100,000 people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin. The study looks at the genetic makeup of volunteers and helps researchers to understand more about the nature of diseases in the community in the hope that it will be possible to identify better treatments to cure or help prevent them. The findings will also help researchers understand more about various health conditions that affect the population at large. You can find out more about this non-for-profit project on the East London Genes & Health website.