Braggin’ Rights

A commentary by Jared J. Grantham, ISN Councilor

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 Journal).

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. Kollf
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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