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National Kidney Foundation Honors Susan Furth, MD, PhD, With Excellence in Care Award
One of the first research grants received by Susan Furth, MD, PhD, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, came from the National Kidney Foundation (NKF). A trainee in Maryland at the time, Dr. Furth recalls the "mini grant" as an exciting and energizing opportunity early on in her career. Fast forward years later, and Dr. Furth has become not only a pillar in the NKF community and a renowned expert in pediatric kidney disease, but a recipient of one of the NKF's highest honors — the 2023 Excellence in Care Award.
"I think we're making enormous strides in being able to prevent kidney disease and its complications and ultimately cure some kinds of kidney disease," Dr. Furth said.
The award recognizes a healthcare professional who strives to improve the lives of patients, colleagues, and the community-at-large through their knowledge and expertise in the fight against kidney disease. The recognition follows Dr. Furth's storied and successful career as a pediatric nephrologist and a researcher focused on slowing the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in children.
"The NKF is a remarkable organization; it's patient-centered, focused on education and advocacy, and a supporter of research," Dr. Furth said. "My goal as a clinical nephrologist and as a researcher has always focused on trying to prevent the development of CKD and treat its consequences. Being honored by an organization that raises the awareness of the burden of kidney disease means so much."
Dr. Furth's relationship with the NKF began with that first $2,500 grant awarded to trainees, individuals interested in research, or those with community impact programs. In the years that followed, the NKF would continue to positively influence Dr. Furth's career. She served on the editorial board of the NKF's official journal, the American Journal of Kidney Disease, and was the journal's associate editor.
Dr. Furth would not only use the NKF's educational materials and clinical practice guidelines in her work, but she eventually contributed to the development of NKF guidelines. Through the Chronic Kidney Disease in Children (CKiD) Study, Dr. Furth helped to develop and establish a new Pediatric Risk Calculator, a tool that helps clinicians assess kidney disease progression in children and provide more targeted care. Dr. Furth co-authored the study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases providing the evidence base for the calculator's development.
"I have been honored to be a part of developing those evidence-based practice guidelines and use them in my clinical care with patients," Dr. Furth said.
Dr. Furth also has focused on equity and mentorship over the course of her research career. The NKF supports junior faculty through their Young Investigator Research Grants, which Dr. Furth said her mentees have been fortunate to receive.
"That feeling of success with your first grant proposal and being able to do a project that then led to data that was used for a bigger project — that was very influential early in my career," Dr. Furth said.
So, what's next for pediatric kidney disease research, according to the Excellence in Care award recipient? Dr. Furth looks forward to seeing more breakthroughs build on what researchers have already discovered about CKD.
"For children with kidney disease, many of them have structural urologic disease, and our ability has progressed to diagnose that earlier as well as promote interventions that can slow the development," Dr. Furth said. "We are also discovering very early markers of kidney injury that we could use to diagnose well before an individual has a decrease in kidney function. New therapies are coming onto the horizon, so my hopes are that we will be able to prevent kidney disease and cure kidney disease when we see it."