With an aging population and the rise of diabetes, chronic kidney disease is a major concern in America. One of the greatest problems facing nephrology as a specialty is the lack of qualified fellowship candidates.
According to Dr. Benjamin Ko, a nephrologist from the University of Chicago Medicine, “Only about 60% of nephrology training positions are filled each year, and a much smaller percentage of those could be considered highly selective applicants. This is a problem that strikes at the very future of nephrology.”
To tackle this issue the NKFI KidneyMobile team is partnering with the American Society of Nephrology [ASN] Tutored Education and Research for Kidney Scholars [TREKS] program at the University of Chicago. ASN started the TREKS program in 2013 with a goal of providing medical and PhD students with a broader view into nephrology.
TREKS is a weeklong program at the University of Chicago meant to peak student interest in nephrology careers. Students spend time learning about human renal physiology, healthcare disparities, community outreach, and nephrology procedures.
During this year’s program, students joined the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois at a KidneyMobile screening for hands on experience. Students were able to perform blood pressure, blood glucose, and urinalysis testing on KidneyMobile participants.
Kidney disease disproportionately affects low-income communities. By volunteering at a free health screening, students were able to meet with the type of high-risk patients they would be working with in the future. They saw first-hand how important early detection is in nephrology. 70% of KidneyMobile patients tested have at least one abnormal result and 46% are immediately referred to a physician or health center.
Community outreach is the best way for students to fully understand the impact their work makes. Kidney disease affects over 30 million Americans and we need bright doctors addressing this epidemic. The TREKS program continues to be a great success attracting prospective nephrologists to the field.