South Asian Genes and Health in Australia (SAGHA)

SAGHA Research Team​

The project team is a diverse, highly qualified and multidisciplinary team, with expertise in cardiovascular disease, human genomic data collection and analysis, genetic counselling, and primary care. 

Dr Sonia Shah
Dr Shah leads the Genomics in Health group at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland. Her research uses genomic and health data to advance our understanding of heart disease so we can improve prevention and treatment. Dr Shah is the project lead for the SAGHA study. Dr Shah is of South Asian ancestry; though born in Kenya, she is of Indian origin.
Dr Tatiane Yanes

Dr Yanes is a clinician–researcher and Genetic Counsellor at the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, Translational Research Institute . Her research focuses on evaluating the ethical, legal and social implications of genetic and genomic technologies, and is informed by her clinical experience as a genetic counsellor, where she support families undergoing genetic testing, provide genetic risk assessment, and assist families cope and adapt to their genetic diagnosis. Her role in the SAGHA project is to provide expertise in the area of conducting focus groups and following up of participants and liaising with GPs in the area of genetics.

Dr Vaishnavi Nathan​

Dr Vaishnavi Nathan completed a PhD in skin cancer genetics through the University of Queensland, followed by a Masters of Genetic Counselling at the University of Technology Sydney. Dr Nathan is the Clinical Coordinator on this project and will be leading focus group discussions to understand the views of South Asians on genetic research and heart health. She works in the Integrating Genomic into Medicine group at The Frazer Institute, University of Queensland.

Dr Nathan is of South Asian ancestry; she is a Singapore-born Indian and her mother- tongue is Tamil. She is actively involved in the Brisbane Tamil and Hindu community.

Ms Anjali Henders

Anjali Henders is responsible for the coordination of research activities and strategies, research governance and supervision of a high-through put genomics laboratory, the Human Studies Unit at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland. Anjali has over 15 years of experience managing complex, large-scale research programmes and specialises in facilitating and managing interdisciplinary collaborations and consortia. She  brings specific expertise to this study in the management of projects involving community engagement and genomics.

Professor Kim Greaves

Professor Kim Greaves (BSc, MBBS, MD, MAppl. Epidemiol, FRCP (UK), FRACP) is a cardiologist and epidemiologist. He is the Director of Cardiac Research and Senior Staff Specialist in the Department of Cardiology, Sunshine Coast University Hospital, Queensland. He is also Professor, School of Medicine, Griffith University and Honorary Associate Professor, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University. Kim has a 25-year track record in clinical CVD research, and more recently in population health research focusing on CVD prevention in primary care, and the linkage of primary care data with hospital and other health data sets care.

Kim’s role in the SAGHA project is to provide clinical expertise in cardiovascular disease prevention and leverage his experience in working with primary care providers.

Professor Julie McGaughran

Professor Julie McGaughran is the Director of Queensland Health, Genetic Health Queensland. She has expertise in cardiovascular genetics and will provide expert clinical input in all stages of the project.

Professor John Atherton

Prof John Atherton is a practicing clinician and Director of Cardiology at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH). Prof Atherton co-established the Royal Brisbane Womens Hospital Cardiac Genetic Clinic in collaboration with Genetic Health QLD, which provides genetic testing for genetic cardiac disease. He is also on the Board of Directors for the National Cardiac Registry Board as the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ) representative.

Professor Katharine Wallis

Katharine is a GP clinician researcher, Mayne Professor and Head of the Mayne Academy of General Practice, and Head of the General Practice Clinical Unit. Katharine’s research focusses on patient safety in primary care, in particular supporting safer prescribing in general practice to minimise medication related harm.

Professor Naomi Wray

Professor Naomi Wray holds joint appointments at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) and the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) within the University of Queensland. She is Head of the Centre for Populations & Disease Genomics within the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland. She is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Leadership Fellow, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science. In 2020 she was awarded the NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Award for Leadership in Basic Science. She is a Clarivate Highly Cited researcher. Her research focusses on development of quantitative genetics and genomics methodology with application to psychiatric and neurological disorders. She plays a key role in the International Psychiatric Genomics Consortium.

Dr Rehan Villani

Dr Villani is a research officer at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Institute with vast experience as a Genomics Educator and has worked in supporting training and health service evaluation and implementation of genomics in clinical practice. She has been responsible for the engagement and delivery of consumer and clinician clinical genomics resources, such as genomics education modules and resources, and led the creation of the Genomic Institute webpage and the online Genomics Learning Centre.

Mrs Leanne Wallace

Leanne Wallace is responsible for managing the Human Studies Unit laboratory where samples for this project will be sent to. Leanne has over 20 years of experience implementing and managing large scale human research projects involving sample collection through to genomic data generation and analysis. Leanne’s ability to work with professionals and researchers from various disciplines will ensure the aims of this project will be achieved. Leanne studied at Griffith University obtaining a Bachelors degree in Biomedical Science and Masters in Genetic Counselling.

Dr Aideen McInerny-Leo

Dr Aideen McInerney-Leo trained as a genetic counsellor in the UK before moving to the US to conduct clinical research at the National Institutes of Health and lecture at Johns Hopkins University. She is now a research leader within the Dermatology Research Centre at the Fraser Institute, University of Queensland. Her research aims to democratise access to genetic testing by upskilling clinicians to offer testing and creating educational interventions to empower patients to make informed decisions regarding testing. Specifically, Aideen is focused on making genetic testing for melanoma accessible to everyone who might benefit.

Dr Divya Mehta

Associate Professor Divya Mehta is group leader for the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Stress Genomics group. She is the co-Program Lead, “Genomic Epidemiology and Analysis”, Centre for Genomics and Personalised Health and “Sports Systems Domain”, Centre for Data Science at the Queensland University of Technology.

Her research lies as the cusp of psychology, genetics and statistics and focuses on identification of individual genetic and environmental factors that drive our response to stress. As a geneticist and biostatistician, her research involves the development and implementation of statistical methods to identify risk factors for psychiatric disorders and its comorbidities such as cardiovascular disorders.

Ms Deborah Gilroy

Deborah is a senior research project officer within the Human Studies Unit at the Institute for Molecular  Bioscience, University of Queensland. Her background is nursing with experience in coordinating and managing investigator and industry based research /clinical trials in University, Hospital, Community and Regulatory settings. She has worked in the areas of mental health, hypertension, endocrine, cardiac and diabetes. Her role within the SAHGA study is to assist in project administration and coordinate research activities.

Dr Heena Akbar

Dr Heena Akbar is an academic with the School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine at The University of Queensland. Heena has worked in higher education for more than 30 years with expertise in community health, women’s health, gender equity, chronic conditions prevention and management, community development research and training through capacity building & monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) frameworks, contributing to both nationally and international global health context.

As a Fijian woman and co-founding member of the Pasifika Women’s Alliance Inc. (PWA) in Queensland, Heena has worked very closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse communities including Māori and Pasifika peoples, promoting and advocating for cultural identity, health equity and health and wellbeing. Heena is passionate about building community capacity through co-designed solutions, and integrating participatory action research, Indigenous perspectives and knowledge systems with social justice principles to promote equitable health. She currently leads the Pasifika Women’s Diabetes Wellness Program trial and the ‘Feeding Our Mana- Household Food Security for Māori and Pasifika communities in Queensland. Heena sits on several Advisory Board including Metro North Board Community Advisory Committee, ECCQ Statewide Multicultural Community Health Advisory Committee and is Board of Directors for Women’s Health and Equality Queensland (WHEQ).

Heena is a blessed with a loving family and community. She is a mother of twins and have a supportive husband. On a personal note, she is a keen long-distance runner, having completed several half and full marathons.

SAGHA Community Advisory Group​

The SAGHA Study Community Advisory Group (CAG) is comprised of members from the Queensland South Asian community. The role of the CAG is to give a community perspective on how best to do genomics research with this community, ensuring that community concerns are considered and addressed, and research is conducted in a culturally sensitive and respectful manner.

Dr Nahid Choudhury
Dr Nahid Choudhury is a clinician and Senior Lecturer in Nursing at Swinburne University of Technology. He is a proud member of the Bangladeshi community in Queensland and well connected with the community. He will facilitate research in the community and provide clinical input into the project.
Vrunda Sane

Vrunda is a genetic counsellor working at Genetic health Queensland, RBWH and Wellspring Genetics, Greenslopes Private Hospital. She has nearly 10 years of clinical experience and she works mainly in the area of familial cancer. Vrunda also has a formal qualification in education, and she taught in secondary as well as tertiary education sector in India and Australia before changing careers to genetic counselling.

Vrunda is active member of the Indian community. She is one of the founder members of the not for profit group “Maayboli Marathi in South East Queensland” which aims to promote and teach Marathi language in Australia. Vrunda is a licenced radio panel operator and she regularly broadcasts for radio 4eb 98.1 FM, Brisbane’s ethnic radio for the “Namaste World “ show.

Mrs Rajini Eshawarachar Shankar

My name Rajini E Shankar, living in Ipswich, I’m mum of 8-year-old kid and carer for my husband, who is suffering from chronic illness. This is my 5th year in Australia and on pathway to permanent residency. Basically, I’m from India, linguistically and culturally diverse, non-English speaking background. From January 2021 to present working as a Consumer Representative for West Moreton Health and from June 2021 to present Health Consumer for Queensland Health. As a Consumer Representative, I review documents, codesign projects, participate in workshops, give suggestions and feedback, participate in volunteer work, lead kitchen-table discussions and am an Advisory Council member. I also did Certificate III in Health Administrative Assistant at Mater Education. At present working as a Volunteer Administrative Assistant at Mater Hospital, South Brisbane.

Ms Maleeha Waqar

My name is Maleeha, and I am a 2nd year PhD student at the School of Biomedical Sciences, the University of Queensland (UQ), where my research is focused on Multiple Sclerosis. I am originally from Pakistan, but like many, my heritage is from all over South Asia, with grandparents from the Indian Punjab and Kashmir. Being multilingual, I speak fluent Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi in addition to some more local dialects of my region. My heritage is at the center of my identity, which has always pushed me to be actively engaged with my community here in Brisbane. I am currently the President of the Pakistani Students’ Association at UQ, and an active volunteer for many South Asian community organizations. The SAGHA study is an incredibly important study aiming to address the gap in understanding about the genetics of health within the South Asian community. Having seen the impact of cardiac disease on several members of my own family, I believe the SAGHA study will help answer some critically important questions and in reducing heart diseases in the South Asian population. As a member of the Community Advisory Group, I hope to contribute to the study in a meaningful and impactful way and bring engagement and support from the Pakistani community in Queensland. 

Mr Sarat (Reg) Maharaj

Mr Sarat (Reg) Maharaj is a prominent leader within the QLD Indian community. He brings a wealth of experience in humanitarian assistance and community service, by helping with settling refugees and other new arrivals for equity and access with health, education, transportation and services, and with translation and language teaching for 32 years. He is the President of the Hindustani Language and Culture School Queensland. He has volunteered in the Lions Medical Research Foundation, Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation, Lions Worldwide Diabetes Awareness Program, Lions Sight Conservation & Preventive Blindness Program, and Lions Mobility Programs across 44 years. Mr Maharaj has been a policy advisor to all levels of government for 8 years and has participated in RSV Research 2022, Community Engagement Health Services Australia and Metro North Queensland. 

Scroll to Top