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Nephrologist aims to improve quality of life

Wednesday 10 March 2021

As a nephrologist with over a decade of experience and specialising in peritoneal dialysis PA Hospital A/Prof Yeoungjee Cho is driven by a passion to improve the quality of life for patients with kidney disease.

Dr Cho works part time as nephrologist with the rest of her time focused in different areas of nephrology research including her role as a clinical trialist with the Australasian Kidney Trial network where she chairs the peritoneal dialysis working group. Her experience in the field as both clinician and researcher has led to her firm belief that producing better outcomes for patients will come from not only from clinician research but importantly by engaging and collaborating with key stakeholders including patients.

Nephrologist A/Prof Yeoungjee Cho

"Doing focus groups and understanding patient perspectives has really given me an understanding that we do need to listen to our patients. What we think that they understand and is important is not necessarily true," she said.

"There are so many things that we can do better by engaging patients at a meaningful level, and that is something that we're continuing to learn and to evolve."

"I see value in life participation and achieving goals to find fulfillment beyond that, and I think the treatment for kidney diseases can be a barrier to that, there's lots of different ways that we can help people.

"I think that's where I see the research comes in and I think you can't be a good researcher unless you're a clinician because you don't understand what the patients and people actually want and need. You can only conduct research with that understanding.

A/Prof Cho's drive to improve outcomes has seen her undertake qualitative research with colleagues in Sydney and become involved with the Global Kidney health Atlas through the International Society of Nephrology as well as sitting on the council for the International Society for Peritoneal Dialysis and her work in peritonitis has also been adapted in guidelines to inform clinical decision making across the world.

The PAH nephrologist said the diversity of her work and the nature of kidney disease is what gets her out of bed each day enthused about helping as many patients as possible to live fuller lives.

"You see people when they're in a very early stage of their chronic kidney disease or at a time of acute kidney injury, and then you carry them through to their dialysis and transplantation. You never really discharge people," she said.

"I really enjoy that aspect of clinical care and the fact that you often deal with very complex issues.

"But part of the difficulty with that is that we often treat people on dialysis, which is essentially not really disease reversing. That's where the role of research really comes in to try to see how we can improve outcomes and try to prevent kidney failure requiring treatments such as dialysis.

"Kidney replacement therapy such as dialysis is extremely burdensome. Research can help answer how can we make life more enjoyable and fulfil the requirements of the individual, so they are not limited by burden of chronic illness or its treatment."

Working with other researchers A/Prof Cho sees her role as not only supporting kidney research but helping to build the capacity and knowledge of allied health professional and younger researchers to drive a cultural shift that sees research findings driving the shared decision making process between patients and their healthcare providers.

A/Prof Cho believes working on the PAH campus is a unique opportunity for health workers with an interest in research, with the hospital's established track record for research and the campus with access to the Translational Research Institute and the PA Research Foundation helping to raise vital funds for research projects.

"Unfortunately, everything costs money, and you do need to be able to secure a small amount of funding to help build into a bigger trial idea that can really make a difference in patient outcomes," she said.

"PA Research Foundation has always been a wonderful source of that opportunity, especially as for early career researchers.

"I see the Metro South Health research fund and PA Research Foundation as a really important source of funding that helps to support local research that really puts us at a global level."

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