Innovation in kidney health and transplantation
Members from the Division of Nephrology (Dr. Jonathan Himmelfarb, Dr. Yue-Harn Ng, Glenda Roberts, and Dr. Susan Watnick) were part of a roundtable discussion with Rep. Suzan DelBene to discuss innovation in kidney health and transplantation.
Convened in partnership with Northwest Kidney Centers and the University of Washington, DelBene made a point to connect with patients, researchers, and health professionals in her home district to better understand the needs of the 37 million Americans with kidney diseases and ultimately guide her work as co-chair of the Congressional Kidney Caucus.
Accelerating innovation in kidney health
Representative DelBene first reaffirmed her commitment to accelerating innovation in kidney health, visibly through her longstanding championing of the Kidney Innovation Accelerator (KidneyX), while making it clear that what matters most is that patients have choices in their care.
Jonathan Himmelfarb, MD, FASN, past president of ASN and co-director of the Center for Dialysis Innovation at UW, thanked the congresswoman for her leadership on behalf of KidneyX and shared several advances his laboratory has made.
Encouragingly, he noted that the pace of innovation in kidney health has been steadily increasing, but more work is needed to foster innovation.
Advances in transplant care
Suzanne Watnick, MD, FASN, chief medical officer at Northwest Kidney Centers and member of the ASN Quality Committee, provided an overview of the many exciting advancements in transplant care through the Health Resources and Services Administration Organ Procurement & Transplantation Network (OPTN) Modernization Initiative, made possible through the Securing the U.S. OPTN Act.
Particularly, Dr. Watnick noted the emphasis placed by the initiative on transparency and accountability, key improvements needed to expand access to transplant care.
Transparency and accountability
The importance of transparency and accountability, especially to empower patient decision-making, was remarked on by Glenda Roberts, director of External Relations and Patient Engagement for the Kidney Research Institute and of the Center for Dialysis Innovation at UW, and John Mosby, PhD, president of Highline College in Washington.
Living with kidney diseases, Dr. Mosby and Ms. Roberts shared that increasing patient leadership in their care can only be possible with increased transparency—often patients are excluded from important decision-making, such as deciding whether to accept a donated kidney.
Ms. Roberts noted that further advancements are needed, including an improved system to allow people seeking a transplant to better understand the transplant programs that match their care. At the same time, existing commitments, such as OPTN’s policy to recalculate transplant waiting times after adopting a race-neutral formula for diagnosing kidney function, should be followed through.
Yue-Harn Ng, MD, a transplant nephrologist and professor at UW, affirmed that a matching system is key to improving outcomes and reducing disparities, noting that it is an active project that she and her colleagues are taking on. At the same time, metrics to which transplant programs are held accountable must also be aligned with expanding access to transplant care for patients, Dr. Ng noted.
Representative DelBene’s roundtable concluded with a tour of the Northwest Kidney Centers clinic, which hosted the meeting. A strong champion of kidney health, she pledged to continue her work to support individuals living with kidney diseases. She highlighted her strong bipartisan relationship with Representative Larry Bucshon, MD, of Indiana, the Republican co-chair of the Congressional Kidney Caucus, and shared her hope that efforts to achieve kidney health would rise above partisan differences embroiling Congress.