For Reeti Kumar, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Nephrology, the call to pediatrics came from her love of working with children and the challenge of filling multiple roles as a child advocate, parent educator, clinician, and scientist. In this week’s Faculty Spotlight, Kumar talks about the importance of the development of novel biomarkers for the early detection and diagnosis of renal diseases. She also discusses her primary research interest focused on describing renal outcomes in children with pediatric cancers. Additionally, she shares what she most enjoys about her work and provides some valuable advice for trainees.
How long have you been at Duke? How did you decide to come here?
I have been at Duke a little over a year now. I joined Duke in September of 2019 after finishing my pediatric nephrology fellowship at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH. I first became interested in Duke for its combination of excellent reputation as an academic health center and for providing outstanding renal care to children of North Carolina. I really loved the entire team when I interviewed here and already feel like part of a family in my short time here. As an added bonus, my husband and I love living in the Durham area and all that it has to offer.
What are your current responsibilities within the Department of Pediatrics? What does your typical day look like?
I am primarily a clinical pediatric nephrologist, and my typical day is often varied. I see outpatient pediatric nephrology patients in our Raleigh clinic twice a week and see pediatric nephrology transplant patients at CHC once a week. I also cover the inpatient/consulting service about one week a month and perform renal biopsies about once a month. In addition to patient care, I spend part of my days working on clinical research and teaching medical students, residents and fellows who are training with us.
How and when did you initially become interested in medicine? What made you decide to pursue a career in pediatric nephrology in particular?
I first became interested in medicine in high school. I was taking a physiology class and became fascinated by the intricate and delicately balanced efficiency of the human body. I always knew I would pursue a pediatric residency as I loved to work with children and enjoyed the challenge of filling multiple roles as a child advocate, parent educator, clinician, and scientist. I knew I wanted to become a pediatric nephrologist by the second year of residency. I loved the diversity the field has to offer from variety of pathology to the ability to work in multiple clinical settings. I really enjoy working inpatient and taking care of highly complex and critically ill patients. I also love seeing my patients in the outpatient setting and getting to build long term relationships with them. It is a real privilege to take care of patients with renal disease and guide them and their family through the journey of chronic kidney disease, dialysis and eventually renal transplant.
What do you see as the biggest current challenges and opportunities in the field of pediatric nephrology?
The detection of renal disease has remained much the same over the past decades and is limited to conventional biomarkers of serum creatinine, urinalysis and renal biopsy. The development of new and novel biomarkers for the early detection and diagnosis of renal disease is one of the biggest challenges our field faces. Thanks to the evolution of genetic/genomic techniques and molecular biology, we are starting to add new biomarkers to our armamentarium for early non-invasive diagnosis of renal disease and for improved prognostication.
Is there any research or other special projects you are doing or plan on doing?
My main research interest is describing renal outcomes in children with pediatric cancers. My past research has focused on renal outcomes in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. I am partnering with Dr. Kristin Page and Dr. Jessica Sun on a reach study using Bluetooth blood pressure devices for the early detection of and improved management of hypertension in pediatric cancer patients.
I am also working with NAPRTCS (North American Pediatric Renal Trials and Collaborative Studies) to provide updates on practice patterns and outcomes in pediatric patients with cystinosis.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love taking care of my patients and building relationships with my patients and their families. It is very rewarding for me to educate families about their kidney disease, how it affects their body, and help them learn to manage their disease so they can live life on their terms.
I also really enjoy teaching and inspiring young trainees to see pediatric nephrology as a fun and approachable field.
Who was your most significant mentor and what knowledge did you gain through this collaboration?
While I have had the opportunity of working with many excellent mentors throughout my career, Dr. J Bryan Carmody is my most significant mentor. He introduced me to the field of pediatric nephrology during residency and inspired the love and passion I have for the field.
Do you have any advice for trainees?
Grow your knowledge every day. Each patient has something to teach and especially on busy days, when you are just trying to get through, take 5 minutes to stop and ask yourself “what have I learned today?”
Know that you are not alone. You are not expected to know all the answers. Feel free and comfortable to ask your seniors, nurses, nutritionists, pharmacists, and attendings for guidance and support.
Take care of yourself. You can’t take care of your patients if you don’t take time to mentally and physically recharge.
What passions or hobbies do you have outside of Duke?
My husband and I love spending time with family, hiking, traveling, and going to the beach. With COVID, I had the chance to foster my love of reading, dancing, and building with Legos.