Martin Pollak, MD, Goes the Extra (26.2) Miles for Kidney Research

Coleman, Matthew

doi: 10.1097/01.NEP.0000415388.11091.5e
The Clinical Interview

Improving the care of patients with kidney disease is a marathon of sorts, demanding hard work, dedication, and agility. In April, Martin Pollak, MD, Chief of the Nephrology Division at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), took that race out of the laboratory and onto the streets of Boston. He ran that city's marathon with colleagues from BIDMC on behalf of the research work of the Nephrology Division, which aims to reduce racial disparities in kidney disease rates. Together, the team raised about $23,000. Dr. Pollak spoke with Nephrology Times about running his first marathon and how being a nephrologist affected the experience.

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Why did you decide to run the Boston Marathon?

Dr. Pollak: I thought it was an interesting challenge. Beth Israel Deaconess said they would make four marathon spots available to us to raise funds for education, community outreach, and research into kidney disease, and I thought it was a nice opportunity for fundraising and publicity.

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Was this your first marathon? How did you train for it?

Dr. Pollak: This was my first marathon. I followed fairly standard plans. I ran several days a week, and I would do a long run on the weekend. I gradually built up to the point where, following established marathon training programs, I felt comfortable that I could do it.

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The starting gun sounds and the marathon begins—26.2 miles lay ahead of you. What is running through your head?

Dr. Pollak: During the race, I tried to keep running, and given the temperature, I was trying not to overexert myself and to stay alive. Being a nephrologist is sometimes too much information. Some of the dangers in this kind of heat are volume depletion and also hyponatremia from drinking too much water, so I kept thinking, am I drinking too much? Am I not drinking enough? I was probably thinking about it more than I should have been thinking about it.

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How will the approximately $23,000 you and your colleagues raised be used for nephrology research?

Dr. Pollak: I think it will help us seed some research studies. Obviously doing big research studies in the laboratory or the clinic requires orders of magnitude more money than that, but this will particularly help us with some of the community outreach and education efforts that we would like to embark on related to kidney disease awareness, particularly in minority populations.

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In 2010, you and your colleagues reported a link between African-American ancestry and kidney disease susceptibility. How has your research progressed since that discovery?

Dr. Pollak: We and many other groups now have published additional studies demonstrating that this is an extremely important link and really the biggest risk factor for kidney disease, at least nondiabetic kidney disease, in African-Americans. It's clear that this is relevant to hypertension-associated kidney disease and related to HIV-associated kidney disease and FSGS [focal segmental glomerulosclerosis]. It's not yet clear how this discovery should affect the way people are treated, and it's something that we hope will emerge from our studies and other people's studies within the next several years.

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What message do you have for other nephrologists considering a marathon?

Dr. Pollak: It was a great experience, and I hope to do it again. In terms of fluids, listen to your body, and don't overthink your fluid status. Don't be a nephrologist while you're running.

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