A unique role in global nephrology. The International Society of Nephrology 2011-2020

In 2020, the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) celebrates 60 years since its foundation and first congress in 1960.

The story of the ISN has been documented in two previous accounts published to coincide with its 40th and 50th anniversaries respectively1,2. Presented here is an account of the ISN in its most recent decade, between 2011 and 2020.

This report describes the increasing range and impact of ISN’s many activities around the world in this decade, and how ISN has grown, developed, and matured to maintain and enhance its unique role as the leading professional organisation in global nephrology.

The history of the ISN in this decade is generally one of continuing growth and success inevitably interspersed with some challenges and vicissitudes. The ISN achieves much because of the very many who become involved – ISN members who volunteer their time, energy and expertise to make ISN’s whole range of activities effective and successful, and also the professional staff who make the ISN run so smoothly. All these people are much valued, but it would not have been practical to name them all, so those identified by name have held the most senior leadership positions in ISN, both among its members and its professional staff.


ISN: VISION & MISSION – Commitment to global activities

What is ISN? And what does it want to become? In this decade, the vision and mission of ISN underwent further steady development beyond its origins as a conventional professional medical society. Since the 1980s, its leaders had begun to recognise ISN’s unique opportunity and responsibility to be a truly global nephrology organisation, seeking to support the growth of nephrology, not only in high income countries (HIC), which had already established substantial nephrology services and infrastructure, but also in low and middle income countries (LMIC) in all parts of the globe. The initiation of the ISN Fellowship program in 1985 was the first manifestation of this commitment to supporting nephrology in LMICs. This was followed over the next two decades by the development of the five ISN programs3, which became the bedrock of ISN’s unique capacity building in LMIC under the umbrella known as COMGAN (Commission for Global Advancement in Nephrology), later rebranded from 2009 as ISN GO (Global Outreach). 

tbl1Since the beginning of the 21st century, ISN increasingly described itself as a philanthropic organisation4 largely on the basis of these programs. This is reflected in ISN’s Vision and Mission reframed in 2018. In the decade 2011-2020, there have been many opportunities to broaden ISN’s effectiveness in LMIC. Since the ISN is the only professional society with a major commitment to support nephrology in LMIC, it seeks out as many such opportunities as possible, within the limited resources available. On the other hand, ISN is sensitive to its responsibility also to provide valuable benefits for all its members including those in HIC, whose continuing membership in large numbers are critical to the inclusiveness, the financial strength, and therefore the effectiveness of the society. The ISN Executive Committee and Council have debated the balance between LMIC and HIC member needs throughout the decade, and although effective strategies have been agreed, there are inevitable tensions in providing optimal membership experiences and benefits for all members in diverse locations around the world.


ISN members provide their time and talents on a volunteer basis. The only members receiving direct remuneration are the editors in chief of KI and KI Reports. On ISN’s many committees, working groups and regional boards some four hundred ISN members are voluntarily contributing. Some of these make involvement with ISN a major element in their professional life.

Staff & Headquarters

Luca Segantini

In 2011, ISN was contracting its management requirements through the Brussels-based association management company, Interel, having moved the contract in 2009 from its first provider of these services, MCI, also based in Brussels. Luca Segantini had been recruited as ISN Executive Director in 2009. The increasing range and complexity of ISN’s activities already required a growing professional staff, in 2010 there were 8 FTEs.

ISN’s growth had brought it to the stage that reduced the advantages offered by working through an association management company, and in 2011 the decision was made that ISN should become self-managing, directly employing its own staff, and renting offices in Brussels for its headquarters. A subsidiary office was maintained in New Jersey, USA where the financial affairs were managed, appropriately given that ISN continued to be incorporated as a 501(c) non-profit organization in the

United States5. A Belgian legal entity, the ISN Foundation, was established to handle the complexities of Belgian payroll and a local office in Brussels.

Charu Malik

The expectation, based on business modelling developed by Luca Segantini that the move to self-management would reduce costs as well as improve efficiency, was amply borne out. The transition while time consuming for staff and some leaders, was largely seamless to the wider ISN membership.

ISN continues to be served by a highly committed, young, multilingual staff; Brussels which hosts many international organisations providing a fertile ground for their recruitment. Staff numbers continued to grow throughout the decade as ISN’s activities and infrastructure relentlessly increased; in 2019 ISN employed or contracted 36 staff.

In 2018 Luca Segantini stepped down after a decade of exemplary leadership and service for ISN, and was succeeded by Charu Malik in 2019



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