She dreamed of becoming an astronaut as a girl growing up in southern New Jersey. Instead, she followed her fascination in science into medicine rather than space—and today (in what was clearly a loss for NASA) Rachelle Gandica, MD, is a pediatric endocrinologist and a rising star at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center.
A graduate of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Gandica did her residency and fellowship in endocrinology at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center (she spent one year as a hospitalist in pediatric neurosurgery also at Columbia) before joining the Berrie Center as an attending physician in July of 2011.
“Endocrinology was an easy choice because it is such an interesting and cerebral field of medicine,” said Dr. Gandica. “I just fell in love with treating diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. I love working with children and their families, developing very close bonds and making a difference in people’s lives. And to be able to do it at the Berrie Center, where we give unparalleled, comprehensive care—I’m just really, really lucky.”
Smart and vivacious, Dr. Gandica has been interested in clinical research since her fellowship at Columbia when she studied monogenic diabetes, caused by a single gene mutation, unlike type 1 and type 2 diabetes that are associated with clusters of genes. At the Berrie Center she has participated in the TODAY Trial which studies type 2 diabetes in adolescents.
Her work with people, mostly children, through the TrialNet Pathway to Prevention Research Study, has helped identify a new category of diabetes, which is being called, “silent” type 1 diabetes—a diagnosis given to people who have no symptoms at all, but are discovered through research screening by glucose tolerance testing. Dr. Gandica, 34, will present the preliminary results of this study in two weeks at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association.
Her practice, Dr. Gandica says, has been enriched by the various clinical research projects she works on. “My patients benefit from it too,” she says, “because I am able to offer them the opportunity to participate in some really great, cutting edge clinical trials. Where else can you say that?”
Dr. Gandica gets her interest in math and science from her father, a chemical engineer who was born and raised in Cucuta, Colombia. “He used to have a lot of fun doing my calculus homework,” she recalls. And she describes her mother, born and raised in Athens, Greece, as “incredibly loving and hardworking. The best mom I could have asked for.” Her older sister, an oncologist and palliative care specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, has always been one of Dr. Gandica’s mentors.
She met her husband on eHarmony.com and describes him as a “serial entrepreneur.” (His current venture is a solar energy monitoring company called Locus Energy). Dr. Gandica says she knew from date one that he was Mr. Right. Today, they live in Leonia, New Jersey with their 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.
Click here to support Dr. Gandica’s work at the Berrie Center.