Sister Renal Center success in Russia and Belarus

Just back from a great trip seeing GO in action in Russia and Belarus. And in particular seeing the power of the Sister Renal Center program.

First to Minsk in Belarus, whose Sister Center link with Oxford, UK has now ‘graduated’ from the Sister Center program. The Sister Center development has been a key factor in transforming kidney care in Belarus over the last few years with more dialysis facilities and a very rapid growth in transplantation. But make no mistake though ISN can facilitate many things, it is the fine leadership of Aleh Kalachyk in Minsk and Paul Harden in Oxford which is at the heart of the success.

This was the sixth year in a row there has been a CME in Minsk, and we had a young and lively audience. The program for the CME also showcased another very successful Sister Center nearby. The Gent (Belgium)-Kaunas (Lithuania) Sister Center has also ‘graduated’ and now established a ‘trio’ with Brest in Belarus. The teaching faculty for the Minsk CME included three speakers from Gent, as well as two from Kaunas, and there was a substantial contingent from Brest in the audience. Hopefully in the not too distant future, there may be a speaker from Brest on the faculty of an ISN CME.

The Oxford-Minsk pairing has also established a ‘trio’ with Saratov, so that was our next CME port of call – 800 km east of Moscow. We were advised to take the train (16 hours from Moscow!). What’s wrong with flying, I thought. I soon found out – colleagues from Moscow speaking at the CME changed planes, were told the new plane was on its maiden flight, had a 6 hour delay, and arrived at 3am just a few hours before the CME started! Not apparently an unusual sequence of events.

So the sleeper train was the right choice! An excellent CME in Saratov – a full lecture theatre of about 160 people for the whole of both days. And plenty of evidence that nephrology is on the move – medical school and hospital very supportive, everything seems to be in place to start a deceased donor transplant program next year, and dialysis numbers are growing fast. Yet our colleagues there have no facilities for immunofluorescence microscopy.

For many of us who take so much for granted it is hard to think how you can develop clinical nephrology without such a key technique, yet they have had to. Hopefully the need for C4d staining for transplant biopsies, as well as the need for proper diagnosis of glomerular disease, will at last enable them to make the case this is a priority in their resource limited setting. But in the meantime, I wonder if anyone has such a microscope surplus to requirements?

Challenges but so much optimism in Saratov – and with the ‘trio’ support of Oxford and Minsk I am sure things will move forward strongly. A memorable and worthwhile trip – plenty of borsch, and just a little vodka; warm hospitality; new friends; and proof in action that GO programs are helping highly committed people to make a difference.

Is there a downside to travelling for ISN? Well … I have plenty of stories about the challenges of obtaining visas ….. perhaps I will share some of them with you soon. I look forward to seeing many of you at all the ISN meetings which will fill much of my time in San Diego next month.

Last modified on Monday, 15 October 2012 10:02

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