Tuesday 4 February 2014 8:07am
“When our kidneys go wrong, the early signs are usually silent—we get tired, our blood pressure increases, we become anaemic, and we can just feel awful. Unfortunately, when people get kidney disease it’s usually for life. They live with the disease. I realised my role was to be part of their journey, helping them feel as good as they can be and as informed as they can be.”
Dr Suetonia Palmer works in Christchurch Hospital’s kidney unit and is a University of Otago, Christchurch senior lecturer and researcher. Over the past two years she has received a number of awards for her research into best practice treatment for kidney disease, allowing patients, doctors and policy makers to make better clinical decisions. She was the first New Zealander to be awarded a L’Oreal Australia and New Zealand Women in Science Fellowship, won a University of Otago Emerging Researcher with Distinction in Research Award, a Health Research Council Emerging Researcher Grant and a prestigious Rutherford Discovery Fellowship valued at $800,000 over five years.
Her ground-breaking work began when she realized information available to doctors working in kidney units was often confusing and sometimes incorrect.
“Often the information used to make decisions is conflicting and is hard to find and make sense of when it is buried amongst the intense output of scientific research,’’ Dr Palmer says.
So she set about reviewing millions of bits of information on practice and research into kidney disease from around the world and writing it up as best practice guidelines.
As a result of her work doctors now don’t have to hunt around the internet for latest research information and patients get up-to-date advice.
“I believe we can do much more to help people with kidney disease feel better, get back to work, and give them control of their own treatment.’’