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About the Institute

Profile of Indra Narang

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Dr. Indra Narang

By: Daniella Vasilovsky

Dr. Indra Narang, MBBCH, MD, FRCPCH

  • Director, Sleep Medicine
  • Staff Respirologist, Division of Respiratory Medicine
  • Associate Scientist, Translational Medicine
  • Assistant Professor, Paediatrics, University of Toronto

1. Where are you from? Where did you study?
I am from London, England where I completed the majority of my postgraduate training in paediatrics and respirology which included three years of research towards my doctoral thesis. I undertook a one-year fellowship in respirology at SickKids in 2004-05. I also trained in sleep medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In 2006, I was appointed as a staff respirologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London. I returned to SickKids in 2007.

2. What are you researching right now?
The main focus of my research is sleep disorders in children, specifically sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is characterized by snoring and pauses in breathing at night leading to low oxygen levels. This is overcome by the brain waking up and allowing the resumption of normal breathing. We now understand that sleep apnea can cause tiredness during the day which can lead to cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

My current research focus is looking at the prevalence of sleep apnea in obese children, as we now know believe that up to 60 per cent of these children will have sleep apnea. We are assessing the cardiovascular consequences of sleep apnea in obese children and we are further examining improvements after treatment for their sleep apnea.

Other research that I am interested in is the impact of opioids, such as morphine, on the control of breathing. These medicines are used frequently and yet, we are still not sure how they affect sleeping and breathing at night.

3. Who is your all-time favourite scientist, and why?
It is difficult to have one favourite scientist. There are some amazing scientists, such as Sir Isaac Newton and his work on the Laws of Gravity; Alexander Fleming and the discovery of penicillin, which revolutionized medicine.

4. What are your major interests outside the lab?
I have many interests outside the lab, but currently I like to spend as much time as possible with my three-year-old daughter. I really enjoy running, and use running as my thinking time and ‘to blow the cobwebs away’.

5. Why science?
After studying medicine and working as a paediatrician for a few years under fantastic mentorship, I found myself asking a lot of questions and soon realized that although medicine is a science, there are many unanswered questions. I was strongly encouraged to do a formal research degree which I undertook for three years. My doctoral thesis really laid the foundation for my interest in science and research. The research I did fostered so much critical independent thought, and emphasized the importance of asking questions and thinking laterally. I thoroughly enjoy being a physician and a scientist.

6. Why SickKids?
SickKids has an immense infrastructure and reputation for discoveries, innovation, independent and lateral thought, and encompasses some of the best physician and scientific minds in the world. With all that, who would not want to work at SickKids?

7. What is the most controversial question in your field right now?
Sleep apnea in children is a relatively new entity and as such, there are many children not being treated for sleep apnea, because many people do not recognize it as a problem. However, sleep apnea is an independent risk factor for heart disease. There are many controversies currently raging in paediatric sleep medicine; 1) how can we best diagnose children with sleep apnea? 2) should we treat every child with sleep apnea? 3) what is the best treatment for children with sleep apnea and 4) what is the best timing for intervention in children to prevent long-term damage?

8. What are you reading right now?
I am currently reading The World is Flat  by Thomas Freidman. It is an interesting book on globalization and really illuminates the different factors at work that are increasingly connecting all different parts of the world.

9. If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering a research career, what would it be?
You need to be passionate about research! Research is incredibly hard work, frustrating and involves sheer highs and lows. If you remain focused and work hard, you will reap immense rewards and satisfaction from all of your hard work.
I would suggest that prior to commencing in a research career, talk to as many researchers, both clinicians and basic scientists, to understand what is involved in a research career.

10. What does the SickKids Centre for Research and Learning mean to you?
I think it is a significant enterprise bringing together scientists, physicians, students, patients, families and the community. It will be a centre for innovation, scientific breakthroughs, creativity and some of the richest collaborations of the best scientists in the world. I think it is phenomenal and I feel very privileged to be a part of it.

July 2012

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