By Bill Peckham
I watched the Blue Angels this weekend. Every year, as part of Seafair the Navy air team is here in Seattle on the first weekend of August and between the hydroplane heats they preform their signature maneuvers over Lake Washington.
Taking advantage of the free entertainment above their lake front home, a University of Washington nephrologist and her husband hosted a fund raiser for Northwest Kidney Centers. Sitting at the water's edge watching the air show, I was struck that the event neatly illustrated much of what is unique and valuable about the organization.
Northwest Kidney Centers is the result of Dr. Belding Scribner's vision of how the provision of dialysis should be organized. Given all the possible ways one could provide dialysis Scribner imagined something that did not exist in 1961.
Scribner's vision was for there to be a not-for-profit, community based organization to steward the community's kidney health. Scribner imagined an organization that could partner with the community, and act on the community's behalf.
Scribner's vision, which started with just three patients in 1962, has grown into today's Northwest Kidney Centers, which serves thousands of Washington State residents every year through their incenter, hospital and pharmacy programs. If Scribner could have been at the event on Saturday he would be proud of the organization his vision launched in 1962, he would have seen that the still not-for-profit Northwest Kidney Centers is busy growing its partnership with the community.
It's not Northwest Dialysis Centers, it is Northwest Kidney Centers with the mission to promote the optimal health, quality of life and independence of people with kidney disease, through patient care, education and research. The event Saturday wasn't in support of dialysis, it was in support of Northwest Kidney Centers transplant services and research efforts. As stewards of the community's kidney health Northwest Kidney Centers promotes transplant as a first line treatment for severe chronic kidney disease. Ideally people with diminishing kidney function can go straight to transplant without ever starting dialysis.
Northwest Kidney Centers doesn't profit when someone has a preemptive transplant, but as Scribner imagined the organization is owned by the community and is therefor dedicated to the community's kidney health, not just the community's dialysis needs. Dedication to what is best for the community is an unique and valuable characteristic of Northwest Kidney Centers, and it compels a commitment to kidney research.
Research provides hope. As good as Northwest Kidney Centers is they understand that it isn't enough to keep doing what they've always done, we all have to do better. Research is how we will get better. As stewards of the community's kidney health Northwest Kidney Centers partnered with UW Medicine to create a Kidney Research Institute with a three pronged research mission
On Saturday we heard that the KRI has already generated over 20 million dollars in research grants in just its first two years.
Scientific investigation. The KRI conducts research with high potential to tangibly improve the lives of people with kidney disease; for example, by understanding uremia and other complications from loss of kidney function.
Training. The KRI trains pre- and postdoctoral fellows in a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to clinically relevant questions.
Collaboration. The KRI collaborates and interacts within Northwest Kidney Centers and the UW Medicine Division of Nephrology, as well as with other Department of Medicine divisions, School of Medicine departments, and with the University of Washington Schools of Public Health and Community Medicine, Education, Business, Engineering, Information Technology and Public Affairs. Clinical research space is at Harborview Medical Center and at Northwest Kidney Centers.
20 million dollars of research grants is a great start but even more exciting is that as donor support grows, the KRI can scale up to bring more minds, grants and collaborations into the fight against kidney disease. As support grows the KRI's research will shape the future of kidney treatment around the world. It's an exciting development.
Northwest Kidney Centers created the Kidney Research Institute because we need the Kidney Research Institute. But it was due to Scribner's vision that we had in place an organization that was able to identify and act on this pressing need. Because of Scribner's vision we have an organization with the ability to focus community support on kidney research. Because of Scribner's vision we have an organization that is promoting preemptive kidney transplants. It was a low key fund raiser on a cloudy Saturday, but it really could only have happened in Seattle.