By Kent Bressler, RN,MA – Transplant recipient and Kidney Advocacy Committee advocate
In mid-2017, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) nominated Erich Ditschman and myself to join the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP) panel organized by the Department of Defense (DOD) to review grant proposals. As a kidney patient with FSGS, this gave me an amazing opportunity to represent kidney patients and help direct how grant funding is directed by the DOD for chronic kidney disease research. I must tell you that I am profoundly grateful to have represented the National Kidney Foundation at this symposium.
On December 6th, I arrived in Reston, VA. Once on site, I met six very talented and dedicated researchers who treated us with respect and dignity, not only during the panel meetings, but after the meetings. They shared everything with us including the fact that they were grateful to people in the NKF community for our focus and interest in promoting research in chronic kidney disease. As a patient panelist, they were all grateful to get the human side attached to the research.
Scientists applying for a grant proposed to conduct innovative research focused on treatment and rehabilitation in numerous healthcare areas. Overall, PRMRP panels reviewed proposals for $300 million across 48 research topics. My panel was provided 17 grant proposals to review, all of which were related to chronic kidney disease. Patient panelists, like myself, were asked to represent the collective view of patients and family members by preparing comments on the impact of the research on issues such as diagnosis, treatment, and quality of life. Colonel Wanda L. Salzer, M.D., Director of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs expressed her appreciation for the consumer advocates’ perspective during the scientific review sessions. “The Consumer Reviewers on each panel are instrumental in helping the scientists understand the patient’s perspective and provide valuable insight into the potential impact of the proposed project. They bring with them a sense of urgency and remind us all, of the human element involved in medical research.”
When I come to Washington, D.C. in March as part of the 5th Annual Kidney Patient Summit, I will come better armed with experience to share with my Congressman and Senators about how research conducted by the government affects patients across the country. The fight for a cure is held back only by those who have stopped looking and I am going to do my part to make this a reality.