GW and the National Kidney Foundation Host Screening in Ward 7

The GW Ron and Joy Paul Kidney Center co-sponsored a health screening and educational outreach event at the Pennsylvania Baptist Church for D.C. residents.

GW and the National Kidney Foundation Host Screening in Ward 7
D.C. Councilwoman Yvette Alexander participates in the Ron and Joy Paul Kidney Center's kidney disease education event. (Photo/Sarah Miknis)
March 16, 2016

By C.J. Trent-Gurbuz

James N. "Chief" Short Jr., a former deputy fire chief with the District of Columbia and a current resident of Ward 7, believes in kidney health. As he explained at a screening held March 12 at the Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church and sponsored by the GW Ron and Joy Paul Kidney Center and the National Kidney Foundation, he and his community have been deeply affected by kidney disease.

"[This issue] is very close to me," he said. "My father died; he was on dialysis. One of my very best friends in life was on dialysis for over 10 years. I had a sister who passed, eventually with kidney disease. Another cousin in North Carolina; she went blind before she passed, and that was really devastating to the family."

What Mr. Short can't do, he said, is stand by and "not be involved in something that's ravaging our community." Chronic kidney disease, according to Michele Anthony and Ken Balla, executive director and program manager, respectively, of the National Kidney Foundation, has staggering statistics. "Ward 7, specifically zip code 20019, is ground zero for kidney disease in the entire nation," Mr. Balla said. "The incidence of end-stage renal failure in this neighborhood is 44 times the national average."

The key, Ms. Anthony said, is ensuring that those who are at greatest risk — people who have diabetes or hypertension, a family history of kidney disease and are 60 years of age or older — get screened annually. Although kidney disease typically has no symptoms in its early stages, it can be reversible if it's caught early. "If you're looking for symptoms that never come, you could get to end-stage renal disease," she said. "At that point, you need dialysis or a transplant in order to live."

What's crucial to catching the disease early is educational outreach, part of the mission of event co-sponsor the GW Ron and Joy Paul Kidney Center. Ron Paul, a two-time kidney transplant recipient, believes in alerting those most vulnerable to the disease to potentially save their lives. "If each of you in this room reach out to two people and get them to take a simple blood test, a urine test, a blood pressure test, you would be amazed at how much better they'll feel and how much better you'll feel that you potentially helped one of the members of your family," he said at the screening.

The screening—which also featured speakers Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D. '81, vice president of health affairs, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine and dean of the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS); Keith Melancon, chief of the Division of Transplant Surgery, director of the Transplant Institute at GW Hospital and professor of surgery at SMHS; and Kendrick E. Curry, pastor of the Pennsylvania Baptist Church—provided all of the necessary tests (blood, urine and blood pressure) as well as one-on-one consultations with a health care professional.

"I have a history of kidney problems, diabetes," said patient Bryan Isabell, as he waited to hear the results of his tests. "It never hurts to check it out, make sure I'm all right."

In addition to the screenings, the event marked March 2016 as National Kidney Awareness Month. Yvette Alexander, D.C. councilmember of Ward 7 and chair of the Committee on Health and Human Services, officially announced that the new designation in a resolution unanimously approved by the D.C. Council, "encourages all citizens to recognize the importance of kidney health and the prevention, early detection and treatment of kidney disease."

Those words echoed Mr. Short's attitude toward the disease. "The fight is on," he said. "We are going to win this battle."