Meet ASN’s Next President

Ronald Falk

/kidneynews/3_10_11/9/graphic/9f1.jpg

Why did you become a nephrologist?

When I was studying medicine, I found that the questions asked of kidney patients, and about kidney patients, were complicated and intriguing and I found the science behind the questions fascinating. I still do. I consider it such a privilege to care for people with chronic disease.

When I encounter young people who are considering nephrology as a career, I tell them they cannot be in a better position than to enter into the lifelong study of kidney medicine. Now is an especially exciting time to be working in nephrology because of the rapid pace of change, because kidney professionals are at the forefront of many recent healthcare changes, and because of the exciting opportunities scientists and clinicians in kidney medicine have to make a positive difference in the lives of millions of patients.

Are you already planning for ASN Kidney Week 2012?

I’m excited about the 2012 meeting in San Diego. ASN Kidney Week is the premier kidney meeting in the world, the highlight of the year. Planning for the meeting is well under way under the able leadership of Manikkam Suthanthiran, MD, FASN, Chair-Elect of the ASN Program Committee, and Mark E. Rosenberg, MD, FASN, Chair of the ASN Postgraduate Education Committee. The Program and PGE Committees have developed a truly spectacular infrastructure and are so well supported by ASN staff that I really don’t need to worry about the process. We are looking forward to fantastic presentations, policy discussions, and unparalleled professional exchange.

As Chair of the ASN Education Committee, you worked hard to see that ASN developed Practice Improvement Modules (PIMs). What do you consider the importance of PIMs?

Until recently there were no practice improvement modules aimed at kidney providers. These are excellent tools and provide a realistic approach to improving the care of patients. They are designed to engage learners, and many doctors say they have changed their approaches based on their experiences with the PIM process. ASN has just released a dialysis PIM and hopes to make more of these available as possible to meet the needs of kidney professionals.

During your time at ASN you have added scientists with nursing and pharmaceutical expertise to the Program and Education Committees. Why is this important to ASN?

Advanced practice nurses, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists are among the many professionals who are integral to the teams taking care of patients with kidney disease, and their expertise is invaluable. In recognition of this, the American Society of Nephrology is planning to expand its continuing education credits to encompass continuing education for advanced practice nurses and doctors of pharmacy.

You have served on Council for several years. What have you learned from your experience on Council?

ASN Council is composed of individuals with diverse backgrounds and interests, representative of most of the constituencies within the kidney space. Council discussions are always interesting and informative, and I have been impressed over the years with how Council members coalesce diverse perspectives and band together to do what is best for the society.

In recent years I have seen tremendous change as the society has expanded the number of high-quality expert staff. Bringing in additional experts has allowed ASN to expand its educational offerings, add distance learning tools, reach new media, add members, and enhance the impact ASN makes on global kidney policy.

You direct the University of North Carolina Kidney Center. What impact has the Kidney Center had on the state of North Carolina?

The Kidney Center is committed to advancing research in kidney disease, and to serving the citizens of North Carolina. One of the Center’s goals is for all North Carolinians to ask their physicians “How are my kidneys?” when they visit their doctors. Especially in counties where kidney disease is increasing, primarily in the rural parts of the state, we are working hard to increase awareness of the risks of developing kidney disease and how to manage kidney disease. Kidney Center staff interact closely with local leaders across the state to achieve the most effective outreach in each community. We have learned that different approaches work better in different parts of the state, and we work hard to target the messaging and reach the maximum number of people in each community, through local leaders, screenings, and other forms of communication. The Kidney Center also works hard to make sure more North Carolinians consider becoming organ donors.

You are well known as a fervent Carolina basketball fan. Will your duties as ASN President interfere with your ability to watch every Carolina game?

Absolutely not. And it is going to be a great year for our team.

October-November 2011 (Vol. 3, Number 10 & 11)