Texas Children’s physician awarded grant to partner with fellow nephrologists in Uganda

After being awarded a grant to help nurture partnerships between kidney centers in low-resource and high-income countries, Texas Children’s physician Dr. Peace Imani is collaborating with colleagues in Uganda to raise awareness and improve care for patients and families facing childhood kidney disease.

The grant award came early last year from the International Society of Nephrology’s (ISN) Sister Renal Centers Program. The program uses training exchanges to build bridges between supporting centers like Texas Children’s and Baylor Foundation Uganda, and emerging centers like the Renal Clinic at the Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala, Uganda.

For Imani, the opportunity to connect with Ugandan clinicians is reminiscent of her time training and working in Uganda before moving to Houston. She continues to volunteer in the renal clinic when she has a chance to return home.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to share knowledge and experiences that can make a difference,” Imani said. “I am grateful to partner with a dedicated and enthusiastic pediatric nephrology team in Uganda. I am familiar with the challenges faced by my colleagues, and being able to support them – even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions – has been remarkable.”

Read on for more of Imani’s thoughts about her ongoing work with Uganda, including a recent online nephrology lecture series supported by the ISN grant funds.

What are some of the challenges that you and your colleagues are working to address in the practice of pediatric nephrology in Uganda?

Kidney disease in children ranges from reversible disorders without long-term consequences, to diseases that are progressive and only get worse over time.

Early patient identification and management to reverse or delay disease progression is crucial especially in place where access to health care services is very limited. From our recent study, we found that a majority of children with chronic (irreversible) kidney disease in Uganda presented in advanced disease stages. At these later stages life, sustaining dialysis and/or kidney transplantation are imperative – yet these services are not readily accessible to a majority of these families.

What are your plans for the online lecture series?

In collaboration with the two pediatric nephrologists in Uganda, we developed an interdisciplinary professional education curriculum on pediatric nephrology in resource-limited settings, which is being delivered as a bi-weekly virtual synchronous lecture series hosted via Zoom. In addition, we will use this forum to present and discuss relevant clinical cases with subject matter experts.

What do you want to share with those who attend the lectures?

Our target audience is diverse, including nurses, medical students, pediatric post-graduate students, clinical officers, physicians and other allied health professionals involved in pediatric care across various practices in Uganda. Our goals are to raise awareness of childhood kidney disease, improve early diagnosis and management, and to facilitate the referral process to the Renal Clinic at the Mulago National Referral Hospital.

How are the grant funds helping to bring your vision for the lecture series to life?

The ISN funds are used to facilitate participants’ access to Internet services needed to attend the online lecture series. We have also used some of the funds to facilitate local radio talk shows to raise awareness of childhood kidney disease, and encourage referral to the renal clinic.

In addition, we plan to develop a patient database that we can use for follow-up, as well as advocating for more comprehensive pediatric renal services.

Why is it important for Texas Children’s to be involved in international educational exchanges like this?

The mission of Texas Children’s Hospital is to support excellence in patient care, education and research with a commitment to quality service and cost-effective care to enhance the health and wellbeing of children not only locally but internationally as well. An experienced center such as TCH is instrumental as a supporting center for this SRC partnership to be successful. TCH’s global health experience and the wealth of expertise in pediatric nephrology is unparalleled.

Once the series has concluded, what’s next for your work in Uganda?

This is only the beginning! I will continue to look for innovative ways to develop and support the pediatric nephrology program in Uganda.

Our focus for the first two years is on multidisciplinary educational exchanges between the emerging center and supporting center, which are at the moment bi-weekly. We plan to invite guest speakers from the two partnering institutions.

My long-term goal is to support the development of a pediatric kidney center of excellence at the Mulago National Referral Hospital – a center that provides comprehensive kidney care, education of health care providers, and engages in translation and scientific research. And hopefully, a center that has the capacity to provide acute and chronic dialysis, and eventually kidney transplantation, services that are lacking at this time.

Texas Children’s Global Health Network is one of the largest providers of pediatric HIV care in the world, with an expanded scope that also includes tuberculosis, malnutrition, Sickle Cell Disease, oncology, cardiology, emergency medicine, surgery, anesthesiology and maternal health. For more on the programming in Uganda, click here.