NKF Honors Kidney Patient for Continuing to Advocate for Others

NKF Honors Kidney Patient

The National Kidney Foundation Honors Kidney Patient for Continuing to Advocate for Others


(Nov. 30, 2022, New York, NY) — Kidney patient advocate Maria Elena Grijalva has been fighting for people at the greatest risk of kidney disease ever since she received a kidney transplant 36 years ago. Her efforts will be honored by the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) at the 2023 Spring Clinical Meetings in Austin, TX. She will receive the Celeste Castillo Lee Patient Engagement Award, which was established to honor the longtime advocate for patient-centered care and empowerment.

“I first met Maria at the 2020 Congressional briefing and was impressed by her dedication to raise awareness of kidney disease in her community, particularly in individuals of Native American and Hispanic backgrounds. She gives so much to others with kidney disease,” said NKF President Sylvia Rosas, MD, MSCE. “It is dedicated volunteers like Maria and their relentless work to improve the lives of people facing kidney disease that provides us the inspiration to continue to do our work.”

More than three decades ago, Maria knew nothing about kidney disease until her kidneys failed, and she needed a transplant. Her brother, John Arriola, successfully donated one of his kidneys. Today, they work together to help others. Maria devotes her efforts to educating Native American people and farmworkers in the agricultural communities in California and raise awareness among high-risk populations about kidney health and kidney disease.

“It is an incredible gift to receive a transplant and it has given me the power to educate others about prevention, understanding their kidney disease, and to advocate for themselves with their healthcare team,” Maria said. “The National Kidney Foundation has always supported me and encouraged me to engage in ways I’ve never dreamed. This award means that NKF has recognized my commitment in educating those high-risk populations about kidney disease. I couldn’t be more proud.”

Each year NKF considers the efforts of advocates and patients who work on behalf of others and selects among them one who most exemplifies the work of longtime advocate Celeste Castillo Lee. The award is presented to the recipients during one of the nation’s largest and most important annual gathering of clinicians and kidney health professionals at the NKF 2023 Spring Clinical Meetings.

“NKF means I get answers. Facts. Straightforward easy to understand information. Support if I need to have someone to talk to and I never feel alone,” Maria said. “Before I connected with NKF, besides my nephrologist I had no other person who I could talk to about how I was feeling what I was feeling and why I felt the way I felt. I knew no one going through this road of uncertainty. My dialysis peers were my support.”

“Never assume the education is out in the public eye about any health issue,” Maria said. “Check out your local health fairs and see what's missing. Be an advocate by volunteering. Fill the void. We, the patients, are the people who know it best. The human touch is best from those who’ve been there.”


NKF Spring Clinical Meetings

For the past 31 years, nephrology healthcare professionals from across the country have come to NKF’s Spring Clinical Meetings to learn about the newest developments related to all aspects of nephrology practice; network with colleagues; and present their research findings. The NKF Spring Clinical Meetings are designed for meaningful change in the multidisciplinary healthcare teams’ skills, performance, and patient health outcomes. It is the only conference of its kind that focuses on translating science into practice for the entire healthcare team. It will be held in April 11-15, in Austin, TX.

About Kidney Disease

In the United States, 37 million adults are estimated to have kidney disease, also known as chronic kidney disease (CKD)—and approximately 90 percent don’t know they have it.  1 in 3 adults in the U.S. are at risk for kidney disease.  Risk factors for kidney disease include: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, 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. Black or African American people are more than 4 times as likely as White Americans to have kidney failure.  Hispanics or Latinos are 1.3 times more likely than non-Hispanics to have kidney failure.

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. 

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 www.kidney.org.