Dr Suhas Ganesh

Research and Global Exploration

– Travelling to broaden your understanding of mental health

Post-doctoral

Dr Suhas Ganesh

Psychiatrist

If I am asked to highlight one aspect of my research career spanning the past eight years, it will be the diversity of experiences it has offered, professionally and personally.

From starting my post-doctoral journey in addiction mental health at National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, India to elucidating the complex interplay of cannabinoids pharmacology and psychosis at the Schizophrenia Neuropharmacology Research Group, Yale University, the journey has been nothing short of an adventure with a great mix ups and downs, twists and turns, and successes and failures. I wouldn’t be where I am today without this journey.    

The experience over the years has only made me humbler to realise there is much more to mental health than what genetics and biology can ever explain

My residency training at NIMHANS, Bengaluru, laid a strong foundation in both clinical psychiatry and psychiatry research. As a clinician, the rich exposure to the expanse of mental health along the bio-psycho-social dimensions highlighted the value of this field to the wellbeing of an individual and society. However, to the scientist in me, a question that always kept going was ‘what is the cause?’. This was a time for some inspiration, and it couldn’t have come from a better place than reading ‘Schizophrenia Genesis’ – a classic on the genetic origins of schizophrenia by Prof Irving Gottesman. From there started my journey as a student and a researcher in psychiatry genetics. The experience over the years has only made me humbler to realise there is much more to mental health than what genetics and biology can ever explain.  

The interest in substance use as a field of study for me was rather tangential. If genetics explained a part of the origins of problems in mental health, the question of ‘what is environment’s impact?’ is what inspired me to study the intersections of substance use and mental health; if there is one environmental influence that could be measured with some degree of certainty, it was substance use. This took me to do post-doctoral research training at Yale in a lab well known for elucidating the biology behind the relationships between cannabinoids and psychosis. Those four years empowered me with the skills involved in critical thinking, asking a scientific question, pursuing the method of science, teaching, grant writing and so on. Following on from my time at Yale, a recent award of a fellowship by MQ: Transforming Mental Health, to continue my research on the genetics of schizophrenia back in India gives me the much-needed confidence and support to continue in my scientific pursuit.  

……it has also allowed me to explore and enjoy diverse expressions of cultures, landscapes, and the natural beauty that the world has to offer

My journey of professional adventure from the western-ghats of India to the eastern hills of Connecticut, and now back to where it all started with an independent grant, while filled with angst and uncertainty, has also been enriching, exhilarating, and a test of my perseverance. While my research career has taken me to some of the best universities and helped me meet and work with giants in the field of psychiatry genetics, it has also allowed me to explore and enjoy diverse expressions of cultures, landscapes, and the natural beauty that the world has to offer. If there is any moment of metaphor that would best capture this cross-country adventure, it would be the bliss of watching the sun setting on the Grand Canyons while the river Colorado whispers to you ‘keep flowing, the rocks will make way!’.

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