ASN President Anupam Agarwal, MD, FASN, issued a call to arms to nephrologists to reimagine their profession by 2030.
“Today nephrology stands at a critical crossroads,” Agarwal said. “The COVID-19 pandemic and sweeping movements to advocate for racial equality have brought into focus the need for us, all of us, to take the lead and shape our future.”
Agarwal made the remarks during the President’s Address at Kidney Week Reimagined 2020.
He urged nephrologists to take the lead in building a kidney care workforce; advancing diversity, inclusion, and equity in the field; and expanding innovation and collaboration. He set an ambitious goal of addressing these challenges by 2030.
For 30 years nephrology has had difficulty recruiting, Agarwal said, because nephrology for too long has been undervalued compared with other lifesaving specialties, dampening interest in the field. But he said the ongoing increase in nephrology consultations and dialysis among COVID-19 patients may change the field’s image.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has dispelled this misperception and demonstrated the indispensable value of our specialty,” he said. But more work is needed to build a fair compensation structure for nephrologists who provide complex 24-hour care to a very vulnerable population. Without improved compensation, many talented medical graduates can’t afford to pursue nephrology because of staggering student loan debt. To help, ASN is launching a loan mitigation program for trainees who are currently underrepresented in the field. The society has also asked former ASN President Sharon Moe to lead a task force that will develop nephrology subspecialties and compensation benchmarks.
To attract young people to the profession, Agarwal urged nephrologists to create local programs like the Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program that will help inspire future nephrologists.
“Students who witness the dedication and commitment you bring to your work and the lives you change will be inspired to pursue nephrology,” he said.
Part of those recruitment efforts should focus on increasing diversity and ensuring that all feel welcome and valued. Agarwal pledged that ASN will advance this goal in all of its programs. He noted that during Kidney Week 2020, 45% of the speakers and moderators were women.
“Each of us must commit to diversity and inclusion, otherwise, nephrology will not reflect the full range and depth of talent needed to deliver exceptional care, educate the next generation, and transform patients’ lives through research and innovation,” he said. “Without diversity we cannot take the lead.”
Addressing policies that limit the practice of international medical graduates is also critical, Agarwal urged. These graduates currently make up half of the US nephrology workforce, but they may be prohibited from taking shifts at more than one hospital, despite the desperate need for nephrology care made clear by the pandemic. To address these concerns, ASN is urging the US Congress to enact the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act of 2020, which will recapture 25,000 visas for nurses and 15,000 visas for physicians and eliminate restrictions that currently harm immigrants from countries with high immigration rates.
Determine how best you can make a difference. Workforce, innovation, diversity, collaboration, all of these will help create positive, inspiring change by 2030.
-ASN President Anupam Agarwal, MD, FASN
Agarwal also promoted the need to fuel further innovation in the field through research and development. He urged nephrologists to develop collaborations, pursue grant funding, and publish their work. “Determine how best you can make a difference,” he said. “Workforce, innovation, diversity, collaboration, all of these will help create positive, inspiring change by 2030.”