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PA's rising stars of Nephrology

Friday 02 October 2020

Meet Samuel Chan, Yeoungjee Cho, and Dev Jegatheesan, three rising stars of nephrology based at the PA Hospital (PAH) whose work has the potential to help thousands of patients.

For all three healthcare specialists, the complex nature of renal diagnosis, the patient journey, and the ability to have a profound impact on patients' quality of life was what attracted them to the nephrology field.

"I like nephrology because you get to see patients from the very beginning to the end. You see people when they're in a very early stage of their chronic kidney disease or at a time of acute kidney injury, and then you see them through to all aspects of their journey, which may include dialysis and transplantation. You never discharge people," Yeoungjee said.

"Though it's one organ, the kidneys have an impact on the whole body, and thus you see patients with multisystem problems, including cardiac, endocrine, infectious disease and immunological diseases. The complexity of the case-mix and the requisite holistic approach to management attracted me to the specialty itself," Dev said.

Nephrology clinicians Samuel Chan, Dev Jegatheesan, and Yeoungjee Cho

For all three young clinicians working, with the Queensland Kidney Transplant Service and Australasian Kidney Trials Network under the mentorship of Professor David Johnson and his colleagues at the PAH, has been a one of a kind opportunity to learn and grow their careers.

"I've worked in a number of different hospitals and health services during my short career. The Metro South Hospital and Health Service, particularly the PA Hospital, links you with a university, the Translational Research Institute and the PA Research Foundation, where all three different groups are important drivers of innovation," Sam said.

"Metro South Hospital and Health Service has a strong track record of clinical and research excellence across the multi-disciplinary team. I am constantly in admiration of the unique skillsets and viewpoints that each team member brings to the table, culminating in consistently outstanding patient-centred outcomes," Dev said.

"Multi-disciplinary collaboration is a significant part of the research culture here. For a new researcher like myself, that's where the learning opportunities are unparalleled. We are truly privileged to have access to experienced trialists and research networks, that provide significant impetus and motivation to establishing a career in research".

Like all research at the PAH campus, the three nephrologists work is always centred on improving outcomes for patients.

Yeoungjee is involved in a number of clinical trials including working with the Australasian Kidney Trials Network, and Dev is undertaking a Ph.D. on patient-centred approaches to improving physical fitness in kidney disease. Thanks to a PA Research Foundation grant, Samuel is about to start a trial of prebiotic supplements for kidney transplant patients as part of his Ph.D.

Part of the struggle for young researchers in any field is getting 'runs on the board' in terms of establishing their research profile to obtain greater funding support from larger bodies, which is where PA Research Foundation plays a vital role in developing the careers of young professionals like Samuel, Yeoungjee, and Dev in providing seed funding for their projects.

"PA Research Foundation's role is extremely important, especially in current climate you cannot secure a large amount of funding unless you have pilot data to show safety and plausibility," Yeoungjee said.

"Unfortunately, everything costs money, and you do need to be able to secure a small amount of funding to help build that into a bigger trial idea that really can make a difference in patient outcomes.

"PA Research Foundation has always been a wonderful source of that opportunity."

"In particular, early career research and investigator-led trials would be impossible without support from sources such as PA Research Foundation. For example, lifestyle modification research, which we know is highly prioritised by patients, doesn't typically garner much pharmaceutical or industry support. The Foundation's support in these studies becomes absolutely pivotal," Dev said.

"We work in probably the most academic centre and the best research centre in the whole of Australia. The kidney transplant unit at the PA Hospital is arguably the most academic research unit in Australia. People like David Johnson and Carmel Hawley, who have an enviable track record allow researchers, such as myself, to strongly consider academic research alongside clinical work," Samuel said.

"To be supported by the PA Research Foundation through grants allows our careers to grow and flourish. I can guarantee that the funding the foundation has given for the prebiotic clinical trial, is going to be a major stepping-stone in my career development."

For more on the work of Yeoungjee, Samuel and Dev stay tuned to the PA Research Foundation website.

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