Updated: Oct. 23, 2018 at 12:55 p.m.
Three years after opening, GW’s Kidney Center – a hub for research and kidney treatment – has screened thousands of patients for kidney disease.
Officials said the Kidney Center has screened more than 1,000 people, finding kidney disease in one-third of its patients since opening in 2015. The center has also partnered with the GW Transplant Institute, which has completed more than 150 successful kidney transplants in three years, officials said.
The center has also partnered with the American Kidney Fund to make kidney transplantation more accessible to patients in the D.C. area, officials said.
Keith Melancon, the director of transplant at the GW Hospital, the director of the Transplant Institute and a professor of surgery, said the Kidney Center has screened more than 1,300 people through its free bimonthly screening program.
Melancon said the original mission of the Kidney Center – to inform District residents about kidney disease and improve transplant abilities for patients – has not changed, but the center is adding a focus on kidney treatment research. He said the research will look at how to increase the number of transplant surgeries for patients.
“The original goals were to educate the citizens of the District of Columbia about kidney disease, provide better access to transplantation for patients with kidney disease and perform research to increase the rate of transplantation for patients awaiting kidney transplantation,” Melancon said in an email.
GW launched the Ron & Joy Paul Kidney Center in 2015 to increase the number of kidney transplants performed in the District and raise public awareness about kidney disease. The center received a $2.5 million donation from the Ron & Joy Paul Kidney Family Foundation.
In D.C., Maryland and Virginia, there are more than 8,300 people currently on the waitlist for kidney transplants, according to GW’s Kidney Center. There are about 100,000 people in the United States waiting for transplants.
Melancon said the center’s research team currently has a full-time coordinator and a major contribution from a biostatistician and a field coordinator. He said the center’s research team consists of six coordinators who rotate to go to dialysis centers – locations that remove waste and excess fluid from a patient’s bloodstream – around the city each week.
“We are now publishing our results in academic journals and studying our unique patient population,” he said.
Melancon said the center is a finalist for a grant through a partnership with the American Kidney Fund that will “help patients gain better access to kidney transplantation.” He did not specify the details of the grant.
He added that the center recently contributed funds to build a specialized kidney pump at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences that will allow physicians to rehabilitate poorly functioning kidneys that have already been procured for transplantation prior to the operation. Melancon did not specify the amount of money granted to develop the pump.
Melancon said the center also recently turned its focus to treating minority patients, and the hub ranks among the top institutions in the country in addressing health care disparity for racial minorities.
Black patients make up more than 35 percent of patients living in the United States who receive dialysis for kidney failure and are three times more likely to experience kidney failure, according to GW’s Kidney Center.
“We have had such success transplanting African American and Hispanic patients,” he said. “We have one of the highest rates in the country of performing live donor transplants in minority patients.”
Melancon said the center also recruited James Brown, a sportscaster from CBS Sports, to be the center’s spokesman.
“He has connected well with the audience and has helped to raise an incredible amount of awareness about kidney disease in the city,” Melancon said.
Thomas Jarrett, the chair of the department of urology, said he first became involved with the center’s work five years ago when he was approached about restarting the kidney transplant program at GW. He said he knew Melancon from Johns Hopkins University and asked him to come to GW to restart the program.
“We continue to serve all aspects of the region but especially in serving the diverse D.C. population,” Jarrett said in an email.
This post was updated to reflect the following clarification:
Due to misinformation from a source, the headline and lede of this post were updated to clarify that the Kidney Center partnered with the GW Transplant Institute to conduct more than 150 transplants over the past three years.