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Outstanding Contributions to Kidney Care: Discover the Winners of the 2023 ISN Pioneer Awards

Please join us in congratulating the 2023 ISN Pioneer Award winners from eight different ISN regions:

  • Africa: Professor Emeritus Adewale Akinsola (Nigeria)
  • Eastern and Central Europe: Professor Goce Spasovski (Macedonia)
  • Latin America: Dr. Juan Abraham Bermúdez (Mexico)
  • Middle East: Mohammad Ali Ghnaimat (Jordan)
  • Newly Independent States and Russia: Irma Tchokhonelidze (Georgia)
  • North America and the Caribbean: Merle L. Clarke (Saint Lucia)
  • Oceania and South East Asia (OSEA): Professor Emeritus Agnes D. Mejia (Philippines)
  • South Asia region: Mohan M. Rajapurkar (India)

The ISN Pioneer Awards recognize outstanding and sustained contributions to establishing and developing kidney care in emerging regions of the world.

The winners will receive their awards at regional meetings throughout the year and will be recognized at the ISN World Congress of Nephrology 2023, from March 30 – April 2, 2023, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Find out more about the winners and their outstanding work below.

Emeritus Professor Adewale Akinsola was born in 1946 in Iwo, Nigeria, to parents who were persevering traders. He obtained his medical training at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria.

He completed his residency at the University College Hospital in Ibadan, under Emeritus Professor O Akinkugbe, and at Guy’s Hospital in London, UK. He joined Obafemi Awolowo University as faculty in 1982 and established a kidney care and training program there.

The program supported the development of kidney care services in several institutions nationwide, including a kidney transplant program. Despite infrastructural challenges, the first transplant was carried out in 2002. The program went on to support other centers in the country to develop kidney transplant programs.

Professor Akinsola’s trainees were mentored in clinical research methodologies, generating over 100 pioneering, impactful publications. He was a pioneer member of the Nigerian Association of Nephrology, serving as president from 1996-1998.

Professor Akinsola promoted preventive nephrology. His research interests are the etiopathogenesis of glomerulonephritis and CKD, specifically its burden, control, and prevention. He is thankful to have a lovely and supportive family.

Professor Akinsola cites Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,” as the inspiration behind his pioneering initiatives.

Professor Goce Spasovski is from Macedonia. He post-graduated in nephrology at the University of Antwerp, Katowice, and “Laiko” University Hospital in Athens, Greece, and obtained a Ph.D. at the Universities of Skopje and Antwerp.

He is president of the Macedonian Society of Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplantation and Artificial Organs and past president of the Balkan Association of Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplantation and Artificial Organs.

He is a member of the International Society of Blood Purification board, ISN Eastern & Central Europe Regional Board, EUTox group, the South Eastern Europe Health Network on organ donation and transplantation development steering committee, and the KDIGO Implementation Task Force leader for Central and East Europe.

Over the years, he has served multiple terms with ERA-EDTA as a council member and committee chairman for continuing medical education activities. He served as a European Renal Best Practice (ERBP) advisory board member, co-chairman of the ERBP hyponatremia group and member of the ERBP transplant guideline and DESCARTES groups.

Professor Spasovski was the principal investigator in over 20 clinical trials, including on the progression of chronic kidney disease (two FP7 projects), anemia, chronic kidney disease and mineral and bone disorder, bone biopsies, and immunotolerance in kidney transplant recipients.

Professor Spasovski organized more than 25 regional educational courses and scientific meetings, many of which were supported by the ISN. His academic opus includes more than 500 published articles and book chapters (205 Medline cited), 7070 citations, and he has a Hirsh index of 40.

Commenting on his award, Professor Spasovski says, “I am delighted and grateful to all colleagues that were in favor of this ISN Award.”

Dr. Juan Abraham Bermúdez graduated as an M.D. from the School of Medicine of the Michoacán University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo (UMSNH), in Mexico, in 1961. He completed his internal medicine and nephrology specialties at the then-Hospital of Nutritional Diseases, now known as the Salvador Zubirán National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition.

Assigned to the Internal Medicine service of the M.D. Miguel Silva General Hospital, Dr. Bermúdez pioneered dialysis and transplant procedures there, co-founding the medical specialty residencies and subspecialty nephrology residencies. He was chair of the propaedeutic clinic at UMSNH from 1966-2006. He founded the chair and professor of nephrology positions at UMSNH.

Dr. Bermúdez is the author of multiple books, publications, and courses. More than 5,000 students have trained under his tutelage, and approximately 15% of nephrologists certified by the Mexican Board of Nephrology have been mentored by him at some point in their academic training. He is the former president of the Institute of Nephrological Research and the Mexican Council of Nephrology and is a member of ten scientific societies.

Commenting on this award, Dr. Bermúdez shared his personal formula that has guided his career: “Love medicine, have passion for teaching and an unlimited desire to serve, have science in your brain and kindness in your heart.”

Dr. Mohammad Ali Ghnaimat graduated from Jordan University, undertook postgraduate studies at the University of London, and trained in the immunology of transplantation at Harvard-Boston.

He is a senior consultant in Nephrology, Hypertension and Renal Transplant in Amman, Jordan, associate professor at the School of Medicine of Mo’tah University, and emeritus overseas regional advisor at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh since 2011.

Dr. Ghnaimat is the president of the Jordan Society of Nephrology and Renal Transplantation, the Jordan Society of Internal Medicine, and the Jordan Society of British Medical Graduates. He is president-elect of the Middle East Society for Organ Transplantation, founder and president-elect of the Arab Society of Hypertension, board member and immediate past president of the Arab Society of Nephrology and Renal Transplantation (ASNRT), former chair of the ISN Middle East Regional Board, and member of the KDIGO task force of the Middle East Board Region.

Dr. Ghnaimat is responsible for updating and standardizing Jordan’s dialysis prescription and transplantation guidelines. He has presented over 350 talks at local, regional, and international conferences. He has more than 60 publications in national and international journals.

Dr. Irma Tchokonelidze graduated from Tbilisi State Medical University (TSMU) in 1991 during the collapse of the Georgian economy. She started her activity at the National Center of Urology hemodialysis unit as an internist since no “nephrology” specialty was available. In the interest of supplying urgent support to chronic kidney disease patients, “Kuratorium für Dialyse und Nierentarnaplantation” supported her education in Germany from 1995-1997.

Since then, Dr. Tchokonelidze has become a founder and leader of kidney care in Georgia, significantly furthering the practice of nephrology in Georgia. Her work includes initiating kidney biopsies; implementing peritoneal dialysis (PD) modality; transitioning from acetate to bicarbonate dialysate in hemodialysis; founding and leading the “Dialysis, Nephrology, and Kidney Transplantation Union of Georgia”; initiating official recognition and licensing of nephrology as a separate subject, establishing a three-year-postgraduate training program in nephrology at TSMU; instituting a nephrology-pathology school.

During years of inequality in dialysis access (1996-2011), her commitment was enormous and includes:

  • Collaborating with the health department and regional administration entities to increase kidney patients’ finances.
  • Visiting regional centers with educational programs and consulting patients.
  • Promoting pre-emptive transplantation for younger ones and PD dialysis for patients in remote areas.

In 2011, she founded the Nephrology Development Clinical Center to further advance nephrology in Georgia.

She commented on the award, “My whole career looks like an endless struggle to achieve equity in good nephrology practice for Georgian patients.”

Dr. Merle L. Clarke obtained her medical degree from the University of Medical Sciences, Camaguey, Cuba, in 2007. She completed postgraduate studies in nephrology in 2013, becoming Saint Lucia’s first indigenous nephrologist.

Since returning to her beloved Island, Saint Lucia, a place she truly considers paradise on earth, Dr. Clarke has focused on practicing clinical nephrology.

Given the significant social, psychological, biological, and financial toll that chronic kidney disease (CKD) has on individuals, families and communities, she campaigns for CKD prevention and healthier lifestyles. She has also lobbied successfully for increased access to kidney replacement therapy for her fellow citizens.

Dr. Clarke is multilingual. She is a member of numerous internal societies, including a distinguished fellow of the American Society of Nephrology, patron of the Saint Lucia Renal Association, member of the Saint Lucia Diabetes and Hypertension Association, and the Saint Lucia Cancer Society. She is president of the Saint Lucia Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA) and host of the SLMDA-produced medical program HEALTHWISE, which aims to educate and sensitize the general public on a wide range of medical issues.

Dr. Clarke is also an avid sports fan, principally cricket, football, and tennis, and a firm believer in the importance of and the need for regional integration.

Commenting on her award, she states, “I am infinitely humbled to be receiving this award. It indeed goes to show that with teamwork, dedication, and determination to serve others, anything is possible.”

Professor Emeritus Agnes Dominguez Mejia graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM) in 1977. She then finished her residency in internal medicine at the Philippine General Hospital. She completed a three-year fellowship in nephrology under Dr. Victor Pollack at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, and a three-year fellowship in hypertension under Dr. Stevo Julius at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA. Professor Mejia joined the UPCM Department of Medicine, Division of Nephrology, in 1990, capped by her deanship from 2012-2018.

She was the Dr. Gloria T. Aragon Most Illustrious Faculty Awardee in 2017, the Philippine College of Physicians Distinguished Internist in 2021, and is currently a Professor Emeritus. The highlight of her academic leadership was receiving the ASEAN University Network-Quality Assurance (AUN-QA) Certification for the quality of its basic medical education program in 2018, the first and only medical school in the Philippines to receive this distinction.

As an ISN Pioneer Award winner, she comments, “As a nephrologist, I continued to serve our society through the lens of a teacher, an internist. I set my eyes on the future of our profession as I watched students “get set” at their starting blocks. Looking back, I was fortunate to be with these junior nephrologists – learning need not always be inspired by the sublime, even these young fellows could be sources of wisdom.”

Dr. Mohan M. Rajapurkar is the director of Postgraduate Studies and Research at the Muljibhai Patel Urological Hospital in Nadiad, Gujarat, India, and a member of the board of governors, Muljibhai Patel Society for Research in Nephro-Urology.

He established the first Clinical Nephrology, Maintenance Hemodialysis, and Live Donor Kidney Transplantation and Interventional Nephrology program at Nephrology and Urology institute (a non-profit organization) in Nadiad, a first for the state of Gujarat. He obtained accreditation from the National Board of Examination for Nephrology for teaching nephrology and has trained 64 nephrologists who provide kidney care services in all Indian states.

He set up a nephrology research facility recognized by the Indian government. His major area of active research is serum catalytic iron as a biomarker for acute kidney and cardiac injury. He has published 124 peer-reviewed papers in various journals, has several US and European patents for catalytic iron, and is developing a home hemodialysis machine in India.

Dr. Rajapurkar received the Dr. B. C. Roy National Award for 2007, the ANIO Distinguished Service Award USA for 2017, and Lifetime Achievement & Pioneer awards from the Indian Society of Nephrology in 2021 and 2022.

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