Nephrology – An Exciting Frontier In Medicine

Nephrology – An Exciting Frontier In Medicine

Nephrology (the technical term for the field of medicine that studies the kidneys) is about to embark on a renaissance. With more emphasis on the prevention of kidney failure and kidney transplant, and as one of the last bastions of private practice in the US, the energy in the nephrology field is palpable. We nephrologists are excited (and if you’ve never seen an excited nephrologist, then you’re missing out!). But we also need some young, fresh minds and innovative thinkers to join us. With new energy added to the field, the possibilities for improving our patients’ care and their quality of life would be astounding. If you’re an aspiring doctor, don’t eliminate nephrology because of what nephrology has been in the past, consider nephrology because you will be able to shape what nephrology and kidney care means in the future.

Only 62% of the nephrology training spots were filled in 2020. Why? There is a declining interest in nephrology. This pattern has persisted for the last five years. Soon we will be facing a shortage of kidney specialists, just as the number of people with kidney disease continues to grow. And, by grow, I mean skyrocket. 37 million people are estimated to have kidney disease in the United States.

Though I love what I do, I can’t often convince residents and medical students to become kidney doctors. There are many reasons I can identify, but some of the most common ones discussed among aspiring doctors are how complicated the kidneys are to understand, the difficulty in treating in our patient population, the expectations of long days and nights of work, and the relatively modest upfront pay compared to other specialties.

While some of these things are certainly true for present-day nephrologists, they don’t have to be true for future nephrologists. We need doctors who are ready to bring their inspiration to the field.

Here are some innovative ways engineers, researchers and aspiring doctors may impact the field of nephrology:

-Love to exercise? Start a Chronic Kidney Disease Exercise Rehab Program. Cardiology, pulmonology, and hematology all have one, why shouldn’t we? Exercise and fitness are just as important to kidney disease as they are to these other specialties.

-Love computers? Get involved in the artificial intelligence programs and teach us seasoned nephrologists how to incorporate this into our practice.

-Love engineering? Fix our dialysis machines! Make them smaller, more useful, and more consistent with the rhythm of our native kidneys.

-Love food? I could always use assistance. Help me reach out to our community.

-Love population management? Figure out how we can get every patient at risk for kidney disease screened early and seen by a nephrologist while we can still make a difference.

One of the largest professional nephrology societies, the American Society of Nephrology asked me to create a video describing how I’ve integrated one of my hobbies or interests into my medical practice. I obviously choose cooking (I am The Cooking Doc, of course). I’m hopeful that you watch this video because it describes some of my inspiration. I’ve never felt so strongly that nephrology is ready to embrace innovation. I am humbled and appreciative that the community has supported my crazy cooking interest.

Are you an aspiring dietician, researcher, physician, nurse, etc. What are your ideas?

We’ll embrace them and you as well. Join us.

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