American Kidney Fund Awards Fellowships to Researchers Focused on Barriers to Home Dialysis and Living Donor Transplants Among Youth; COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Disparities in the Dialysis Community
ROCKVILLE, Md. (April 3, 2023) — Today the American Kidney Fund (AKF) announced the recipients of this year's Clinical Scientist in Nephrology (CSN) fellowship program, in which promising researchers work to improve the quality of care for people living with kidney disease and promote clinical research in nephrology. Dr. Alexandra Bicki, a pediatric nephrology fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, will be working on identifying facilitators and barriers to home dialysis and living kidney donor transplantation among adolescents and young adults, while Dr. Nivetha Subramanian, a nephrology fellow at Stanford Medicine, will be working on a project related to disparities in COVID-19 and vaccine booster uptake in dialysis.
The American Kidney Fund's Clinical Scientist in Nephrology program is funded with generous support from Akebia Therapeutics, Inc. CSN fellows conduct prevention and outcomes research while receiving advanced training in essential skills such as medical ethics, biostatistics and epidemiology. The program has funded some of the field's most prominent researchers early in their careers, helping to address the shortage of nephrology researchers.
"The American Kidney Fund is proud to offer fellowships to these two talented researchers, whose research projects may help us gain a better understanding of health outcomes for young people with chronic kidney disease and pandemic preparedness and its impact on people on dialysis," said LaVarne A. Burton, AKF President and CEO. "We are grateful for Dr. Bicki and Dr. Subramanian's expertise and their deep commitment to the kidney community and are looking forward to seeing the positive impact their work and research will have on people living with kidney disease."
"AKF's Clinical Scientist in Nephrology Program has funded promising investigators who are dedicating their research to help solve critical issues in kidney disease," said John Butler, Chief Executive Officer, Akebia Therapeutics, Inc. "As a company dedicated to improving the lives of people impacted by kidney disease, Akebia proudly supports this important program that has resulted in valuable research contributions and has addressed the need for more highly trained investigators in the field."
Dr. Bicki will study the factors that lead to high morbidity and mortality rates among adolescents and young adults with kidney failure compared to other age groups receiving dialysis. She will interview patients, caregivers and providers and perform statistical analyses with data from the U.S. Renal Data System to understand whether systems-level factors of dialysis facilities, such as social worker support, are associated with access to kidney transplantation. The results from these analyses will be crucial for the development of an intervention to address barriers and increase uptake of home dialysis and living donor transplantation among adolescents and young adults with chronic kidney disease (CKD).
"Adolescence and young adulthood are such crucial times in development, and even more so for those living with a chronic disease like CKD. Through this study, I hope to expand our knowledge of the factors that may influence long-term transplant outcomes so that we may help design successful interventions to facilitate these patients' success later in life," said Dr. Bicki. "I'm grateful to AKF for the opportunity to further my research on this important issue and I hope my work will help reduce any barriers that young people may face in their access to home dialysis, living donor transplantation and other kidney care."
Dr. Subramanian will study the excess rate of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and death among patients receiving dialysis since 2020, relative to the general population, and determine rates and predictors of booster uptake among patients receiving dialysis. Her work aims to inform policy that prioritizes and systematizes access to testing, surveillance and treatment for patients receiving dialysis in the ongoing COVID-19 and future pandemics. Dr. Subramanian's work on the COVID-19 vaccine booster uptake will apply to other vaccinations and supply the basis for community-engaged programming to improve uptake for vaccines and other infection-prevention interventions among patients with end-stage kidney disease.
"This work will provide timely insight into future pandemics, allowing policy makers, dialysis facilities and other stakeholders to identify vulnerable groups even among patients receiving dialysis and to hopefully reduce barriers to treatment for all patients on dialysis," Dr. Subramanian said. "I'm honored to be selected by AKF for this fellowship and hope my work will supply the basis for community-engaged programming to improve uptake for vaccines and other infection-prevention interventions among patients with end-stage kidney disease."
Dr. Bicki earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience from the University of Miami and her medical degree and master's in public health from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She completed her residency and chief residency in pediatrics at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School and is currently a pediatric nephrology fellow at the University of California, San Francisco.
Dr. Subramanian earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Biology, Health and Society from Cornell University and her medical degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She completed her residency in internal medicine at Stanford Medicine and is currently in Stanford's nephrology fellowship program.
About the American Kidney Fund
The American Kidney Fund (AKF) fights kidney disease on all fronts as the nation’s leading kidney nonprofit. AKF works on behalf of the 37 million Americans living with kidney disease, and the millions more at risk, with an unmatched scope of programs that support people wherever they are in their fight against kidney disease—from prevention through transplant. With programs that address early detection, disease management, financial assistance, clinical research, innovation and advocacy, no kidney organization impacts more lives than AKF. One of the nation’s top-rated nonprofits, AKF invests 97 cents of every donated dollar in programs, earning the highest 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator for 20 years in a row as well as the Platinum Seal of Transparency from Candid, formerly GuideStar.
For more information, please visit KidneyFund.org, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.