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From One Part-time Nephrologist to a Thriving Kidney Care Team – The Remarkable Impact of the ISN SRC Program on a Healthcare Center in China

Staff from PUMCH and MGH at their 2019 annual meeting

The Peking Union Medical College Hospital (PUMCH), China, and the Institution Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), USA, have graduated after a seven-year* partnership through the ISN Sister Renal Centers (SRC) Program.

Before the program, the PUMCH had one part-time interventional nephrologist managing an annual volume of fewer than 100 procedures. Through the SRC program, with support from the MGH, they formed a kidney care team comprising three nephrologists and three nurses, with a yearly procedure volume of more than 700 cases.

Dr. Jie Cui, from MGH, visited nephrologists at PUMCH to give training in interventional techniques. During COVID-19-related travel restrictions, the two sites continued academic exchanges through online communication platforms. Thanks to this training, an interventional nephrology unit was established at PUMCH. More than 100 healthcare professionals have since been trained there, notably through onsite workshops.

PUMCH’s capacity and expertise to treat glomerulonephritis increased significantly. Seven nephrologists from PUMCH visited MGH for chronic kidney disease (CKD) training. The two healthcare teams also organized a CKD seminar, helping to improve CKD treatment in the region.

According to Dr. Gang Chen, SRC liaison officer for PUMCH, glomerulonephritis (GN) is a significant cause of CKD in China. Before joining the SRC program, GN treatment at PUMCH was limited to steroids and immunosuppressives.

With guidance from Dr. John Niles from MGH, Rituximab was introduced as an additional therapy for refractory nephrotic syndrome in membranous nephropathy (MN) and later became the first-line treatment.

Rituximab has been administered in over 400 cases of MN, achieving a remission rate of over 80% at the center. Three clinical and two basic MN studies are now underway. Several conferences have been held in the region to share these treatment practices.

Since joining the SRC Program, the PUMCH has conducted in-depth clinical research on CKD under guidance from Dr. Ravi Thadhani from MGH. They have received ten research grants and published over 50 research papers.

Specifically, the PUMCH analyzed an epidemiological cohort of over 10,000 metabolism-related CKD cases in rural Beijing residents. They were awarded a research grant for the project and published two papers with the findings. They also launched an in-hospital CKD cohort.

An annual MGH-PUMCH meeting was held throughout the SRC program, continuing in a hybrid format during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has become a meeting of reference for regional nephrologists in China, with more than 2000 attending the event in the last two years. An 8th annual forum is being scheduled.

Dr. Chen affirms that the relationship between the two centers will continue to grow steadily and that an ISN SRC trio partnership is planned.

He commented, “With powerful support from the ISN, we have collaborated with MGH in many fields and achieved the expected goals of the program. We sincerely hope that this initiative continues to enhance scientific communication between nations, improving the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases worldwide.”

*The ISN extended the SRC program by one year due to limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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