Braggin’ rights

by Jared

Grantham, MD

Nephrologists of the World!

Renal patients of the World!

It’s time to kick up our heels and to celebrate from

roof-tops the recent news that Willem J. Kolff M.D. and Belding Scribner M.D. have been

selected as recipients of the 2002 Lasker Award (Associated Press; Wall Street


This award, established by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation in

New York City (

recognizes individuals who have made monumental contributions to medical innovation on

behalf of those suffering with disease. 

As we know, and have taken for granted for far too long, Dr. Kolff

is credited with devising the first clinically useful dialysis machine, used initially for

the treatment of patients with acute renal failure, and Dr. Scribner for the development

of the external arterio-venous shunt that allowed repeated and indefinite dialysis for

those with chronic renal disorders.

The Lasker award is viewed by some as a forerunner to the Nobel

Prize. It is only logical and fair that this should be the case here. 

Doctors Kolff and Scribner received their awards and a cash prize

totaling $50,000 at a luncheon in New York City on September 27, 2002. What a fitting

place to celebrate the gift of life, where only a year ago thousands of innocent women and

men from all parts of the globe lost theirs in a monstrous act of tyranny. 

The Nobel prize was awarded to Joseph Murray M.D. for renal

transplantation several years ago. One might ask, “Why did it take so long for these

two giants to be recognized for their stunning achievements?” The answer may lie

within us, the nephrology community, as much as anybody. Those of us who were around at

the advent of chronic dialysis will recall the heated discussions regarding the cost of

the procedure and the threat that siphoning large sums of money for dialysis would stunt

the development of this field of study. We cast aspersions on ourselves that have had

lingering negative effects on public relations for many years. Dialysis was close to

becoming a pejorative term in some circles rather than a celebrated life-saving treatment.

How wrong we were. Over the last 30 years clinical dialysis and

basic nephrology research have both flourished as the critical mass of physicians and

scientists has multiplied.

But it has taken as many years to erode that negative image and

replace it with the fact that millions of lives have been saved that otherwise would have

been lost.

Heroes is not too over-blown or corny a word to describe

Doctor’s Kolff and Scribner in deep respect of their visionary achievements.

Nephrologists of the world are so proud of you both.

We have much more to tell about our wonderful craft.

And at last, the world is listening.

Jared J. Grantham M.D.

ISN Council




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