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Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Susan Furth Elected to National Academy of Medicine
Editor's Note: Join us in congratulating two outstanding individuals from CHOP Research Institute elected to the National Academy of Medicine class of 2023. Read more below about the accomplishments of Susan Furth, MD, PhD, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer. And then learn about the visionary work of Christopher Forrest, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for Applied Research at CHOP.
Following a unique and impactful career characterized by leadership, mentorship, and major advances for pediatric kidney disease, Susan Furth, MD, PhD, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at CHOP Research Institute, has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Medicine (NAM).
Considered one of the highest honors in the health and medical field, the academy elects individuals who demonstrate outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. Dr. Furth joins a legacy of influential scientific professionals who are shaping health research, practice, and policies to improve outcomes for millions around the world. The prestigious honor carries both a personal significance and a professional one for Dr. Furth, an internationally recognized expert in nephrology.
"Election into this society reminds me of the critical importance of scientists providing and highlighting objective evidence to guide policy and public health approaches," Dr. Furth said. "Through participating in the work of NAM, I have the opportunity to make even more important contributions to child health going forward."
Dr. Furth also has a family role model to live up to — her grandfather, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, served on the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health and was one of the authors of the landmark report that helped to diminish the impact of tobacco use on Americans' health.
"That was a great example of science changing public perceptions and impacting health in a very positive way," Dr. Furth said. "Having the opportunity to have my voice as part of an organization that can contribute to that kind of change is truly an honor."
Charting a Course for Chronic Kidney Disease in Children
Dr. Furth's scientific contributions to the study of pediatric chronic kidney disease (CKD) have not only improved outcomes and quality of life for children, but also improved the methodologies by which researchers study the disease. She uniquely approached and treated CKD in children as distinct and separate from the condition in adults.
Dr. Furth has led the international Chronic Kidney Disease in Children (CKiD) cohort for more than two decades. The multisite, National Institutes of Health-funded study has recruited more than 1000 children and young adults from geographically and racially diverse backgrounds and has led to the definition of pediatric CKD's progression and pathology.
This includes the description of pediatric CKD's natural history and clinical co-morbidities, the development of a staging system for clinicians to trace its progression, the creation of the Pediatric Risk Calculator tool unveiled by the National Kidney Foundation, the identification of cardiovascular and other risk factors associated with CKD, and work highlighting potential genes of interest related to the disease.
As a multiple PI of the NIH-funded CHOP Pediatric Center of Excellence in Nephrology (PCEN), Dr. Furth plays a critical role in breaking down the barriers of developing therapeutic clinical trials for children with rare kidney diseases. Through PCEN, researchers across hospitals and institutes can access the resources and expertise necessary to design and carry out CKD clinical studies and conduct analyses.
In addition to numerous scientific awards over the course of her career, the National Kidney Foundation recognized Dr. Furth's contributions to an evidence-base for kidney disease treatment with the Excellence in Care Award in March.
Supporting Science Through Mentorship
Dr. Furth's leadership reaches far beyond the realm of medicine. A strong advocate for the importance of mentorship in academia, she received the University of Pennsylvania's FOCUS Award for the Advancement of Women in Medicine in 2019 and the Society for Pediatric Research's Maureen Andrew Mentor Award in 2021. The Association for Clinical and Translational Science recognized Dr. Furth with their Mentorship Innovation Award in 2023, an honor made more meaningful in that recipients are nominated by their colleagues and peers.
Dr. Furth's mentorship has fostered a diverse and dynamic community of scientists, with a lengthy list of mentees who include adult and pediatric nephrologists, rheumatologists, intensivists, and urologists at institutions across the country.
"Trying to model the mentorship I received for the people coming behind me always has been a big focus of my career," Dr. Furth said. "It's extraordinarily gratifying to have so many talented people in medicine and research, whether they are students interested in healthcare or medical students and trainees. When you point them in the right direction, they can far exceed your expectations."
Leading a Modern, World-Class Research Institute
The values and passion that define Dr. Furth's scientific career are further reflected in her tenure as Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of CHOP Research Institute. Dr. Furth has ensured the prioritization of programs supporting science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine in underrepresented populations, from students in elementary school to research trainees. Additional mentorship initiatives include Dr. Furth's development of the Department of Pediatrics Junior Faculty Advising Program in 2017. Through the program, advisees meet with advisors several times a year for guidance on career development, work-life balance, and other topics. Dr. Furth describes the pairing as the opportunity for "another coach or sponsor" to share wisdom with their advisee.
As CSO, Dr. Furth has ensured that CHOP remains a leading research institute known for its innovation by prioritizing cell and gene therapy research, and omics and big data initiatives. She maintains an active connection to the research community and its followers through her Bench to Bedside podcast. Launched in 2022, the podcast showcases the ingenuity and innovation of CHOP's research and staff, and why they choose to fulfill their career ambitions at CHOP Research Institute.
"Dr. Furth is a distinguished clinical investigator who is a leader in nephrology research involving rare childhood diseases, with a particular focus on pediatric kidney disease," said Joseph W. St. Geme, III, MD, Physician-in-Chief and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at CHOP. "She is responsible for major advances in defining the natural history of chronic kidney disease in children, developing methods to measure and estimate kidney function, and leading trials to slow progression of kidney disease. Over the years, she has identified novel targets for intervention, generated evidence for treatment guidelines, and uncovered new biomarkers to monitor response to therapy. She is highly deserving of this recognition."