Rock Hill brothers win 1st for medical ‘poster’

dworthington@heraldonline.comOctober 14, 2013 

The Singhi brother, Eric, left, and Ryan and their winning "poster" entry.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

— It would be easy for Ryan and Eric Singhi to say that becoming doctors is in their genes. There have been doctors on the paternal and maternal sides of their family for more than 50 years. Their dad, Sushil, has been a cardiologist in Rock Hill for 20 years.

Both are in medical school. Ryan, 26, is a fourth-year student at the American University of Antigua-College of Medicine. He currently is doing a pediatric rotation at DeKalb Medical Center in Decatur, Ga. Eric, soon to be 23, is a first-year student at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

It would be easy, but wrong. The brothers would be quick to say that genes have nothing to do with education. Family, they admit, influenced their career choice. While their classmates were working in fast food or retail, Ryan and Eric were working or volunteering at local doctor’s offices or Piedmont Medical Center.

“Growing up, it was always in the background of my mind of what it means to be a physician,” Eric said.

Yet mention and family and genes, and you are likely to receive a detailed discussion from the two about the relationship between certain genes and medical conditions, and how they can be handed down from generation to generation.

Their interest led to a presentation, “ApoE 4/4 Genotype and Associated Risk with Acute Coronary Syndrome in Youth Adults.” Their presentation, done in conjunction with Piedmont Medical Center and Carolina Cardiology, recently won first place at the annual scientific assembly of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

There were 80 “poster” presentations at the assembly, and most of the presenters were doctors at minimum and some had specific specialties. Presenting as students is rare, they said. They had to explain their results to a national and international audience.

The presentation was based on a case of a young woman who was treated at Piedmont Medical Center for a massive heart attack and then had follow-up care at Carolina Cardiology where their father is the senior partner.

Ryan and Eric learned of the case from Dr. Talal Baki, who treated the woman and is the director of research at Carolina Cardiology. She was in her early 30s and had none of the usual heart attack symptoms. Baki decided to run some advanced tests that included gene testing. Carolina Cardiology has been doing advanced testing since 1995 at its research department.

The tests revealed the woman had a specific variant of the apolipoprotein E gene, Apo E E4 allele.

The ApoE gene provides instruction for making a protein that combines with fats to form lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are responsible for packaging cholesterol and other fats, and carrying them through the bloodstream.

Variants of the gene have been identified as a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Apo E E4 allele is a risk factor for premature coronary artery disease.

Ryan and Eric started looking for options that could reduce the coronary problems. Their research led them to a Spanish study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study of about 7,500 people over almost five years showed that a diet with a high intake of extra virgin olive oil, nuts, vegetables and cereals, moderate intake of fish and poultry, and a low intake of dairy, red meat and sweets reduced the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Their presentation stressed the benefits of genetic testing, the benefits of a diet appropriate to medical conditions and risk factors, and the importance of personalized medicine.

Their study, Ryan said, strengthened his resolve to become a primary care doctor. Ryan said he wants to become a primary care doctor because of “the rewards you feel when you do the right thing, make a difference, prevent future attacks.”

Eric has several years before he has to decide a specific medical path, but said the idea of caring for people and doing research at the same time is intriguing.

Sushil Singhi is the proud father, noting he was “pleasantly surprised” when his sons’ presentations won second place at the South Carolina Medical Association’s annual conference earlier this year. Success at the American Academy of Family Physicians is beyond his expectations.

Sushil is quick to note that his sons’ research has immediate, practical applications. When he first came to Rock Hill most of his patients were 60 years and older. Now half of those he sees are 50 years or younger.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066 •  dworthington@heraldonline.com

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