Otolaryngologist surgeon-scientist at the Galilee Medical Center Research Institute and the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine, Bar-Ilan University
As a child, I always followed my older sister. Because she is hard of hearing, I was sensitive to the barriers she faced in many aspects of her social life despite the care and support provided by our family and community. From my earliest moments, I knew in my heart that I would dedicate myself to promoting treatments for hearing restoration as well as societal inclusivity for people with sensory disabilities.
My PhD mainly focused on the genetic aspect and functional mechanisms of hearing in vitro and in an animal model. My mentor Prof. Avraham frequently reminded us students that at the end of the day, though we are doing great work in our lab, we should keep in mind how our research informs clinical practice and vice versa. This inspiring mentorship included frequent visits to community centers in order to support people with hearing impairments.
My clinical practice includes diagnosing and treating ear-related dysfunctions which range from hearing impairment to vestibular disorders. My research work in the lab concentrates on studying the molecular basis of inner ear functions in health and diseases. We look at the mechanisms that underlie deafness and goiter due to SLC26A4 mutations in large, consanguineous families in the Western Galilee. Human mutations in SLC26A4 lead to non-syndromic (DFNB4) and syndromic forms of deafness with enlargement of the thyroid gland (Pendred syndrome). While about fifty percent of the cases of hearing loss are related to genetic factors, the remaining half are a consequence of environmental triggers such as infection, noise exposure, and ototoxic drugs. We aim to develop a treatment protocol to minimize the deleterious effects of environmental factors on the auditory system either during planned exposure (i.e. chemotherapy) or following accidental events (i.e. acoustic trauma). Another part of our work focuses on the relationship between vestibulopathies such as BPPV and the bone mineral content of our skeletal system.
A strong belief of mine is the importance of teaching and mentorship. Just as my incredible mentors have guided me throughout my educational and professional life, I strive to be a mentor to those who come after me. This mentorship is important to me and is why I mentor PhD students, MD/PhD students, and residents. A major driving force for my work is increasing our knowledge towards better diagnosis and treatment of our patients while simultaneously guaranteeing the principles of inclusivity and accessibility for people with hearing impairments.