New kidney center to increase treatment, research efforts

Media Credit: Haelin Oh | Hatchet Photographer

Jeffrey Akman, the dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said the new Ron & Joy Paul Kidney Center shows GW's committment to researching kidneys and addressing health disparities in the city.

Officials hope GW’s newest medical center will become a hub for kidney transplants and research.

The Ron & Joy Paul Kidney Center officially launched last week and is the latest effort in GW’s concentration on kidney research. Experts have said kidney research is currently lacking in the medical field and the demand for kidney transplants continues to increase while the supply decreases.

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences, GW Hospital and GW Medical Faculty Associates officially launched the center last week with a $2.5 million donation from the Ron & Joy Paul Kidney Family Foundation. The center hopes to increase the number of live kidney donations in the District and raise awareness about kidney disease.

Jeffrey Akman, the dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said the center’s commitment to the community and addressing health disparities in the District match the school’s strategic plan.

“Ron and Joy Paul are so passionate and committed to this issue. They are perfect funders and you know great universities require great philanthropy. It is really important in coming together,” Akman said. “When you get a donor whose interests and desires match our own strategic mission, then you can really do great things. And that’s the expectation.”

Twelve people on average die every day while waiting for a kidney transplant, according to the National Kidney Foundation. At the same time, the number of medical graduates choosing to specialize in kidney functions and treatment is also decreasing.

The center plans to establish educational forums to educate the public about kidney disease. The center will also work with the Minority Organ Tissue and Transplant Education Program in an effort to reduce the number of ethnic minorities in need of transplants.

Ron Paul, CEO of EagleBank and two-time kidney donation recipient, was diagnosed with kidney disease at 26. Paul said that although he had looked into other institutions, after he met with Keith Melancon, director of the Transplant Institute at GW Hospital, it took him only five minutes to realize that GW was the right place to go.

“We had discussed this with a lot of other places, a lot of other institutions and hospitals. But as I said when I met with Keith and we just sat and discussed the concept, it was a hand and a glove,” Paul said. “We just understood each other extremely well – I understood what the area needed and he understood how to do it and it was perfect.”

Paul said he looks forward to building more relationships and networking throughout the city. As the chairman of the center, Paul said he plans to be extremely active.

“I plan on telling my story and showing that someone can live a very healthy life if they take care of themselves, if they are aware of what needs to get done and, ultimately, if they need a transplant,” Paul said. “We just really want to make everybody aware that you can avoid kidney disease if you have certain problems, but you need to know what the problems are.”

The EagleBank Foundation partnered with the GW Cancer Institute in 2009 to create an annual symposium about cancer research and clinical care, according to a release.

Melancon led the first paired kidney exchange at GW at the beginning of this year. The three-way exchange allowed patients in need of kidney transplants and their loved ones who were not a match, to donate and receive a kidney. Kidney donors and recipients had the chance to meet for the first time at the event.

Donor Jordan Gray offered his kidney to his mother, but when he found out he was not a match, he joined in GW’s first-ever three-way kidney swap. Gray said that he had heard about paired exchanges at other universities and was happy to be a part of GW’s first. He met the woman who had received his kidney at the event for the first time.

“I’m very excited that everything went according to plan and everyone is healthy,” Gray said. “This is something people should really take advantage of to help loved ones and to help their community.”

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