National Kidney Foundation Launches First-ever Health Equity Advisory Committee

February 5, 2021, New York, NY — The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is proud to announce the launch of its first-ever Health Equity Advisory Committee (HEAC) responsible for directing and championing NKF’s health equity, community health, and social justice efforts through research, education and key partnerships. This committee will work collaboratively with kidney patients, other NKF committees, as well as boards and NKF staff to advise in the design, implementation and evaluation of programs that support stronger and healthier communities. 

“We are very excited about the formation of this important committee because our main goal is to ensure that all people living with, or at risk for, kidney disease have access to the health resources and support they need,” said NKF’s President-Elect Dr. Sylvia E. Rosas, MD, MSCE, and Chair of the HEAC. “This committee will also champion NKF-ASN eGFR Taskforce recommendations to reassess the inclusion of race in accurately diagnosing kidney diseases.”

Kidney disease affects an estimated 37 million adults in the U.S. and can lead to life-threatening kidney failure.Most of those with the disease do not know they have it and won’t know until it has progressed to critical late stages. People of Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian American, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander descent are at increased risk for developing the disease. For example, Black or African American people comprise 13% of the U.S. population but represent 35% of those with kidney failure, treated with dialysis, or kidney transplantation. 

“Through health services research we know that healthcare inequalities in communities of color begins long before actual kidney failure develops, so the formation of this committee to address ongoing severe health disparities, particularly in this age of COVID-19, is critically important,” said NKF Chief Medical Officer Joseph Vassalotti, MD.  

Members of NKF’s Health Equity Advisory Committee will meet virtually for a period of two years. Initial meetings will be convened every two weeks and then the committee will reassess the frequency of meetings. 

In addition to advising NKF on the design, implementation and evaluation of programs that will support healthier communities, the HEAC will also provide support: 

  • Identifying expanded professional development and research opportunities for underrepresented healthcare professionals; 
  • Identifying opportunities to support and advance health equity research in nephrology;
  • Assisting in networking as needed with other experts, societies, government agencies, and potential funders, and finally;  
  • Reviewing and editing documents and educational materials submitted by NKF staff or volunteers to assure content accuracy, validity, and cultural sensitivity. 

In addition to her role as NKF’s President-Elect and Chair of the Health Equity Advisory Committee, Sylvia E. Rosas, MD, MSCE, is also a Nephrologist and Epidemiologist at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, MA. Her primary research focus is on the epidemiology of metabolic and cardiovascular disease complication in patients with chronic kidney disease, particularly diabetic kidney disease. 

Additional members of the HEAC include: 

Luz Baquerio is a Bilingual Community Liaison for the Atlanta School District as well as passionate patient advocate who is a certified interpreter in education and special education. She has experienced first-hand what it’s like to not receive the healthcare you need simply due to your citizenship status. 

Beatrice Concepcion, MD, is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN and the Associate Medical Director of the Vanderbilt Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program. She leads her program’s outreach efforts to increase access to transplantation for patients living in rural areas. Her research interests include increasing access to kidney and pancreas transplantation and improving clinical and patient-centered outcomes of kidney transplant recipients.

Raquel Greer, MD, MHS, is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a General Internist.  Greer’s research program focuses on improving health care quality and promoting health equity among patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and CKD risk factors, including diabetes and hypertension. She also leads several educational initiatives to address health and health care disparities, including efforts to increase the diversity of the healthcare workforce and to improve the competency of health professionals to understand and address social determinants of health with and within the communities we serve. 

Vanessa Grubbs, MD, MPH, is an author, kidney donor, and Associate Professor in the Division of Nephrology at University of California San Francisco (UCSF) who has maintained a clinical practice and research program at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital from 2009 - 2019, focusing on palliative care for patients with end-stage kidney disease. 

Dinushika Mohottige, MD, MPH, is a Nephrologist and Medical Instructor in the Division of Nephrology at Duke University Hospitals. She focuses on engaging in patient and community-centered, inequity-focused research around the impact of socio-structural factors on kidney health and kidney transplantation. 

Ellis Morrow, DCN, RDN, MS, LD, is an Assistant Professor and the Director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Texas Southern University in Houston, TX. His research interests include energy expenditure, obesity, and sleep apnea in chronic kidney disease. He is currently an Editorial Board Member for NKF’s Journal of Renal Nutrition

LaTasha Seliby Perkins, MD, is an Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine at Georgetown University and the College Health Physician at Georgetown’s Student Health Center. She is also a Media Ambassador for the American Academy of Family Physicians and an Advisory Board Member of the National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF), which works in close partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus on the Health Braintrust. 

Velma Scantlebury-White, MD, is the first Black woman transplant surgeon in the United States. She has performed 2,000 transplants and has been involved throughout her career with educating communities of color regarding the need for more organ donors and the rising number of patients in need of transplantation.   

Sumeska Thavarajah, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology. She focuses on the development of patient education programs including videos, live classes and patient conferences with a focus on understanding kidney disease, dialysis modalities and transplant options. 

Roberto Vargas, MD, MPH, is an Assistant Dean for Health Policy and Inter-Professional Education within the College of Medicine and Director of the Health Policy Pillar of the Urban Health Institute at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU). His research expertise includes descriptive and comparative analyses of health care interventions to improve health outcomes and reduce disparities in care as well as community engagement in partnered research efforts.

Curtis Warfield, MS, is a Senior Quality Analyst for the State of Indiana. He is a passionate patient advocate for kidney disease who has advocated on Capitol Hill and in Indiana with members of Congress regarding kidney and organ donor issues. He also serves on several technical and medical review panels as a patient representative. 

Tiffany Washington, PhD, MSW, is an Associate Professor at the University of Georgia’s School of Social Work and a Nephrology Social Worker. She serves on the editorial boards of NKF’s Journal of Nephrology Social Work and BMC Nephrology. Her research interest includes caregiving and chronic kidney disease self-management

Full biographies for each Health Equity Advisory committee member can be found here.


Kidney Disease Facts

In the United States, 37 million adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease—and approximately 90 percent don’t know they have it.  1 in 3 adults in the U.S. are at risk for chronic kidney disease.  Risk factors for kidney disease include: diabeteshigh blood pressureheart diseaseobesity, and family history. People of Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian American, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander descent are at increased risk for developing the disease. Blacks or African Americans are almost 4 times more likely than White Americans to have kidney failure.  Hispanics are 1.3 times more likely than non-Hispanics to have kidney failure.


About the National Kidney Foundation

The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is the largest, most comprehensive, and longstanding patient-centric organization dedicated to the awareness, prevention, and treatment of kidney disease in the U.S. For more information about NKF, visit


NKF Professional Membership 

Healthcare professionals can join NKF to receive access to tools and resources for both patients and professionals, discounts on professional education, and access to a network of thousands of individuals who treat patients with kidney disease.