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Celebrating National Doctors’ Day: Why Physicians Choose Nephrology

Why do physicians choose to become nephrologists, and why do they remain committed to nephrology through the many challenges of working with the kidney patient population? For me, it comes down to people. There is no profession that allows for such an opportunity to interact with and fully learn about individuals and understand what is bothering them. And there is almost no other profession that offers the opportunity to cross all socioeconomic levels and all walks of life, which requires nephrologists to learn how to speak to and work with every unique patient they encounter. The humanness of all that is really special and remains my personal compass for being a physician.

On this year’s National Doctors’ Day, let us remember why we chose to become nephrologists—whether we are nephrology fellows learning the specialty or nephrologists who have been in practice for many years. A few colleagues have weighed in below on what inspired them to become a nephrologist or remain committed to this unique specialty for the long run.

  • I was fortunate early in my medical school training to get exposed, entirely by chance, to several nephrologists. Their humanity, intelligence and absolute commitment to patients, and the newly emerging technology of dialysis got me hooked. –Allen R. Nissenson, MD, FACP, FASN, FNKF
  • As nephrologists, we stand on the shoulders of giants: Innovators, pioneers and advocates. Watching a patient regain renal function, receive a successful transplant or thrive on home dialysis motivates me every day. –Jeffrey Giullian, MD, MBA
  • My father-in-law was on chronic hemodialysis when I was a nephrology fellow. He told me that he looked forward to his treatments. His facility was his social center, a real positive in his life, truly a special place. Until then I had assumed that dialysis was only suffering, at best something to be endured. He completely changed my perspective. –David B. Van Wyck, MD
  • My grandfather, my dad, my mom and my uncle are physicians. I saw how their work had a positive impact on others, and wanted to be able to do the same. I didn’t know then that, at its best, medicine is a two-way exchange, in which patients give to the physician as much as they receive. –Francesca Tentori, MD, MSCI
  • The most rewarding part of my job has always been patients, but after my father passed and have had other family members experience health challenges, I’ve gained even more appreciation being able to make someone feel better. Whether it is a patient, or being able to talk to a family member or just a friend who has a concern. It feels more fulfilling now and it’s humbling to think we can have such an impact. –John R. Wigneswaran, MD
  • I became a nephrologist because I wanted to care for patients who really needed care, who had the need for specialized care. Additionally, I wanted to participate in a specialty where I had patient continuity where I could develop long term relationships with my patients and their caregivers and families. –Robert Provenzano, MD, FACP, FASN
  • I became a physician because I want to make a difference, to make the world a better place. –George Aronoff, MD, MS, FACP
  • I chose to become a physician because of the career flexibility and wide range of skills required. At a minimum, being a doctor requires an understanding of biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, healthcare policy, learning theory, and information technology.  Best of all, if done correctly, you can be a meaningful part of people’s lives, which can be satisfying, humbling and scary all at the same time. –Adam Weinstein, MD
  • [The things that empowers me as a nephrologist is] the ability to help patients understand a complex disease and work through the health care system so they can have a productive life. –Stephen D. McMurray, MD, FACP
  • The most rewarding part of my job, at this stage of my career, is being able to share over 25 years of experience in nephrology with teammates and other physicians and to see what amazing things we can do for our patients as a team. –David L. Mahoney, MD
  • I have always considered it a great privilege to be someone’s doctor. And in my current role with clinical IT, that privilege is magnified by being able to help develop IT systems that are designed to improve the lives of patients. We must always keep our focus on patient welfare and improving clinical outcomes—that’s what keeps me motivated in the work I do. –Mark Kaplan, MD
  • The practice model for nephrology has changed considerably over the past decade and will no doubt continue to transform into the future. I would encourage nephrology trainees and would-be trainees not to be distracted by this. Nephrology has a large number of very sick very vulnerable patients who need the care we can provide. While the form of this care may change, the need for it will not and there will continue to be opportunities to make a difference. –Steven Brunelli, MD, MSCE
  • The most valuable career advice I’ve received has been to take the time to listen to the patient and always be empathetic. –Martin Schreiber, MD
  • One of the most rewarding parts of my job is guiding a patient in my charge from illness to wellness. What we do can really fundamentally alter a person’s life and wellness and they usually are not aware of it until after the improvement. When that happens and is acknowledged by the patient, it is very gratifying. –John A. Robertson, MD
  • I became a doctor to help people maintain their health and quality of life. –Mahesh Krishnan, MD, MPH, MBA, FASN

The rewards in nephrology can be broad and diverse. They may come from direct patient and family interactions or from making a unique and significant diagnosis. They may come from seeing clinical programs evolve to help more patients. Or from working with energized, inquisitive teammates to coalesce ideas around goals and challenges and implementing an approach that can help lead to better patient outcomes.

What about nephrology is most fulfilling to you?

Bryan Becker, MD, MMM, FACP, CPE

Bryan Becker, MD, MMM, FACP, CPE

Bryan N. Becker, MD, is chief medical officer of DaVita Integrated Care and has nearly 20 years of physician executive experience. He received his AB in English at Dartmouth College and MD from the University of Kansas, and, after training at Duke and Vanderbilt, he led the nephrology group at the University of Wisconsin and developed a new kidney care venture called Wisconsin Dialysis, Inc. He also served as CEO at the University of Illinois Hospital and Clinics and president of the National Kidney Foundation. Before joining DaVita Kidney Care, Dr. Becker served as President of the University of Chicago Medicine (UCM) Care Network, a more than 1,000 physician clinical integration organization, and Vice President, Clinical Integration and Associate Dean, Clinical Affairs at UCM. Twitter: @bnbeckermd