Nephrology Updates Fall 2023

October 23, 2023

Busy Transplant Center Earns Top Outcomes

The past year for the Division of Nephrology, led by Priya Verghese, MD, MPH, at Lurie Children's has been busy as one of the largest transplant programs in the nation. Typically, busy doesn’t translate to outstanding outcomes. But this was not the case this past year. The program has the lowest hazard ratios for a one-year graft failure in the nation. Furthermore, SRTR data shows the division with a 100% graft and patient survival at one-month, one-year, and three-years post-transplant.

The pediatric kidney transplant team’s success surpasses focus on volumes and intentional programmatic changes have secured the outstanding outcomes of this world class transplant center. “Our transplant program has been successful without sacrificing the heavy emphasis we put on the whole patient and their family. Kids are NOT their kidney disease,” said Dr. Priya Verghese. The faculty has been involved in developing robust programs to transition transplant kids to adult care, identifying predictors for high-risk behaviors to reduce complications from nonadherence, and minimizing the time from patient referral to waitlist. In addition, several family focused initiatives are being initiated to enhance the patient and family experience with the transplant evaluation process.

Wish Comes True for Pediatric Patient

In their spare time, the Division of Nephrology faculty and fellows are inspiring the next generation of pediatric nephrologists! Recently, our kidney transplant recipient, Melanie Rodriguez Romo, chose to be a pediatric nephrologist for a day through Make-a-Wish Illinois. The team did not hesitate in creating a 2-day medical school experience capped by a faux-graduation ceremony attended by the transplant team. 

Melanie's family says she's been dreaming of becoming a doctor since she was 3 years old, and when she became a patient of Lurie Children's Division of Nephrology, her interest skyrocketed, particularly in this speciality field. 

Two years ago Melanie was diagnosed with a rapidly progressing form of advanced chronic kidney disease. Her energy levels dropped to the point where things she loved, like school, became extremely difficult, and she required a strict diet to keep her electrolytes, bones and blood pressure safe. Last spring, her care team determined it was time a for kidney transplant and her mother, Araceli, was her donor. Throughout her journey, Melanie had a special appreciation for the care she received and paid close attention to every appointment, every blood draw, every IV. She approached her medical journey with the type of genuine curiosity that will make her an amazing future physician! 

Her special Wish Day was filled with experiences like receiving her medical school letter of acceptance, trainings in CPR, intubation, casting, suturing, and patient care, a simulated surgery, graduation, a white coat ceremony and more. 

"For a little girl to wish that is just incredible. I think we have the responsibility to nourish that passion for medicine," said Dr. Carlos Becerril-Romero, Nephrology Fellow at Lurie Children's and physician throughout Melanie's transplant journey. 

Melanie's mom says that a future "Dr. Romo" is not just Melanie's wish, but a dream for their whole family.

Watch video about Melanie's story on ABC Chicago's website

Fellowship Program Continues To Grow

As the third busiest program in the nation, three years in a row, growth continues to be necessary within the division. This year, the team added two physicians and the fellow numbers hold steady at three per year with a total of nine fellows over the three-year fellowship training. Debora Matossian, MD, MS, named Fellowship Director in 2017 is credited for growing the number of fellows recruited into the division in addition to reinventing the curriculum, offering trainees an optimal learning environment. “Representation in medicine is key for adequate communication, trust, and better patient outcomes. Matching our patient population distribution has happened naturally and effortlessly. The same way that I connect to my Hispanic patients also happens naturally when I interview URIM candidates”, says Dr. Matossian. Currently, more than 40% of Lurie Children's Nephrology fellows are URiM.

Stella Kilduff Joins Division of Nephrology

Stella R. Kilduff, MD, completed her residency at Westchester Medical Center in 2020 followed by a fellowship at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 2023. She is fluent in Spanish and is board-certified in pediatrics. She is an assistant professor of pediatrics (nephrology) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She focuses a lot of her research on post-kidney transplant and has published research on metabolic acidosis in pediatric kidney transplant recipients, pet safety guidelines for pediatric transplant recipients and practice patterns and outcomes for pediatric ANCA vasculitis transplant recipients to name a few. She is currently working with Dr. Verghese to establish an outcomes research-based portfolio to help children on a larger scale, leveraging the large volumes at Lurie Children’s.

Former Resident, Jeanne Frisby-Zedan Joins Division of Nephrology

Jeanne Frisby-Zedan, MD, completed both her residency and pediatric fellowship in nephrology at Northwestern University McGaw Medical Center/ Lurie Children’s in 2020 and 2023. She is board-certified in pediatrics and also serves as an assistant professor of pediatrics (nephrology) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She is a member of the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology (ASPN) as well as a member of the Acute Care Nephrology Interest Group within the ASPN. She recently published research on long-term kidney outcomes in children following continuous kidney replacement therapy. She currently works the intensivists and the Lurie Children’s dialysis team and is fast becoming the Division NAKI advocate, all while building her AKI survivor clinic.