Patients Fuel NKF Researcher's Passion

Jeffrey Fadrowski, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, spends 80 percent of his time investigating the link between chronic kidney disease (CKD) in kids and their exposure to the heavy metals lead and cadmium. But, it's what he does with the remaining 20 percent of his professional time working with patients that fuels his passion for the rigors of research. "My patients," he says, "are my inspiration and motivation!"

Previous research has shown that exposure to high levels of lead and cadmium is harmful to kidneys. Recently, many studies have also implicated exposure to low-level or non-toxic amounts of lead and cadmium with CKD and its progression. "As exposure to lead and cadmium occurs commonly, evidenced by almost the entire U.S. population having some measurable amount of these substances in their bodies, further research is important," says Fadrowski, who in addition to being a doctor, holds a master's degree in epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"There are reasons why children might be more susceptible to the effects of lead and cadmium. Discovering an association might help us learn more about chronic kidney disease, including ways to slow down the typically inevitable progression of this disease in both children and adults." Reared in Upstate New York, there are no doctors in Fadrowski's family, but he was certainly influenced by a grandmother and an aunt who were pediatric nurses. Fadrowski decided to be primarily a researcher because as he was treating patients he kept wondering, "‘Is this the best way to do this?' One wishes that more information about a disease or treatment existed. Research is the only way to answer these questions."

He is grateful that the NKF understands that fact. "Without the support, a lot of interesting research ideas might not get investigated and many investigators might not be able to continue to pursue a career in research." Unlike many doctors, Fadrowski enjoys dealing not only with his patients, who range in age from infancy to 22 years, but with their parents too. "I chose to take care of kids because they're extremely resilient," says Fadrowski, who is single and loves to travel to such disparate and far flung spots as Galapagos and Vietnam. "They rarely let their kidney disease define them. But, I also enjoy dealing with their parents, answering their questions, telling them the truth about what's going on. Is that sappy?" Hardly.