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Faculty Spotlight: Annabelle Chua, MD

Friday, August 28, 2020
Annabelle Chua, MD

This week's Faculty Spotlight shines on Annabelle Chua, MD, associate professor of pediatrics in the Division of Nephrology. Chua talks to us about how she ultimately decided on a career in medicine due to the diligent care and support her mother received following a cancer diagnosis. She talks about how her love of children drew her to pediatrics and specifically, pediatric nephrology. She describes her primary research interests and her most significant mentor, Dr. Shashi Nagaraj. She also shares some advice for trainees as well as her passions outside of work.

How long have you been at Duke?  How did you decide to come here?
I was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, so I have always considered Raleigh, NC “home”. I had always hoped after completing my fellowship in California that I would be able to return “home” to practice. However, I ended up taking a detour, working in Houston, TX for 8 years and then in Charlotte, NC for 2 years. My hope finally turned to reality in December 2015 when I started working here at Duke where I am fortunate to have found a very supportive and fun “work family.”

What are your current responsibilities within the Department of Pediatrics?  What does your typical day look like?
I am currently a Pediatric Nephrologist and Medical Director of Pediatric Dialysis in the Department of Pediatrics. In addition, I am one of the Maestro Care Pediatric Provider Champions working to try and optimize the functionality of EPIC.

I don’t have a typical day as every day is always different! When not covering the inpatient/consulting service, I may be seeing patients in clinic, seeing patients in the outpatient dialysis setting, in meetings (now via Zoom/WebEx) for clinical care or in my role as Maestro Care Pediatric Provider Champion.   

When not seeing patients or in meetings, I spend time working with various teams on optimizing EPIC, working on QI projects and clinical research collaboratives.

How has the COIVD-19 pandemic affected your work? What’s one strategy you and your colleagues have used to adapt or compensate?
COVID-19 has definitely been a challenge in all of our lives – both at work and at home. Just like everyone else, Zoom/WebEx has become the standard for our weekly team meetings/lectures for the fellows. Due to COVID-19, clinic volumes have been down because patients have been hesitant to come to the hospital/clinics for their visit. In response, our team provided the opportunity for video visits when appropriate. We have also opened more clinic slots to catch up on seeing patients that could not be seen when the pandemic initially started. Our team has worked hard to continue to support each other in all endeavors.

How and when did you initially become interested in medicine?
When I was 9 years old, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was the most terrifying time of my life as I thought that I was going to lose my mom. The diligent care and support of her medical team saved my mom and in turn, saved me. It was at that point that I found my calling to medicine, a passion to pay it forward.

When did you become interested in pediatric nephrology?
Before I even started medical school, my love of children drew me to the field of Pediatrics. My interest in Pediatric Nephrology, however, was not sparked until late in my Pediatric residency. Through residency, I found that I enjoyed the continuity of care in the outpatient clinics, but I was also drawn to the high acuity and complexity of care in the hospital.  I discovered that Pediatric Nephrology afforded me the opportunity to have the best of both worlds!  

Is there any research or special projects you are doing or plan on doing? What do you enjoy most about your work?
Solutions for Patient Safety Nephrotoxic Acute kidney injury collaborative (NAKI) – Duke is one of the centers participating in the pioneer cohort for this collaborative to identify patients who are exposed to nephrotoxic medications and hopefully prevent the development of nephrotoxic medication associated acute kidney injury.

NAPRTCS (North American Pediatric Renal Trials and Collaborative Studies) Registry – Registry collecting information in pediatric patients with Pediatric chronic kidney disease, on dialysis or after renal transplantation.   In addition to Duke’s participation with the registry, I serve on the NAPRTCS Registry Committee, continuously re-evaluating design of the registry and reviewing proposals for studies.

EPIC Pediatric Nephrology Steering Board – I was recently elected to participate in this steering board to help design and create better functionality in EPIC for Pediatric Nephrologists at all centers that have EPIC as their EHR.

While involved in different projects which I enjoy, my true passion lies in the interactions with the patients and their families. 

Who was your most significant mentor and what knowledge did you gain through this collaboration?
I am fortunate enough that my most significant mentor is currently the Chief of our Division. Dr. Nagaraj was my attending during residency who encouraged me to consider the field of Pediatric Nephrology by introducing all that Pediatric Nephrology has to offer. Without his guidance and mentorship during that time, I would not have discovered my love of Pediatric Nephrology.

Do you have any advice for trainees?
Choose a field that you are truly passionate about so that going to work isn’t a chore. Always be willing and open to learn as the field of medicine is constantly changing and evolving. Remember to take time for yourselves so that you can rest and recharge. If you are physically/emotionally/mentally drained, you will not be able to take good care of your patients. Spend quality time with your family/children. Time goes by so quickly and tomorrow is never guaranteed. 

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of Duke?
Outside of work, I love spending time with my husband and 3 children, ages 8, 6 and 4. Together we love to swim, hike, ride bikes and just play! In the midst of COVID-19, I have recently re-discovered my joy in baking – bread, macaroons, scones and fruit tarts to name a few. My newest hobby is helping my 8 year old and 6 year old with virtual school/remote learning!