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“Every Facet Has Yielded Favorable Outcomes for Our Centers”: ISN-TTS Sister Transplant Partnership Drives Advances in Kidney Transplant Care in Colombia

Dr. Jaime Restrepo

Emerging Institution: Fundacion Valle del Lili (FVL), Colombia

Supporting Institution: Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), USA

The kidney care team at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), USA, supported nephrology staff at the Fundacion Valle del Lili (FVL) in Colombia for seven years through the ISN-TTS Sister Transplant Center (STC) partnership.

Challenges in kidney care in southwestern Colombia

According to Dr. Jaime Restrepo, ISN Latin America Regional Board member and ISN-TTS STC liaison officer at the FVL, there are several ongoing healthcare challenges in the southwest region of Colombia.

He explains: “The southwest region of Colombia comprises four departments or states. The Valle del Lili Foundation (FVL) is in the primary area of these four states, the Valle del Cauca. The ISN-TTS STC program has extended support to this region and neighboring areas like Pasto and Cauca.

One of the most pressing challenges encountered during the program was managing nearly 1,000 patients with kidney failure on the waiting list in Nariño State, with its capital in Pasto. Furthermore, there are almost 700 patients with kidney failure on the waiting list in the Cauca region, centered around the capital city of Popayán.

These challenges are due primarily to the repercussions of armed conflicts in the region, the presence of diverse ethnic groups, and difficulties accessing healthcare for those in rural areas.”

Pioneering change: ISN Programs and collaborative efforts

Through the ISN-TTS STC collaboration, pediatric nephrology, patient care, capacity, and knowledge and treatment of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and kidney transplantation have significantly improved at the FVL.

Facilitated by the program, the FVL developed close ties with neighboring hospitals in the southern region of Colombia. Notably, the first two related living donor kidney transplants were successfully carried out in Pasto in June 2023 and March 2024. Plans to carry out the first transplant in Popayán are underway.

Healthcare professionals involved in kidney care at the FVL – nurses, doctors, psychologists, epidemiologists, and other specialists – received expert guidance on best practices at the BCH, which they implemented at the FVL. The FVL then assisted in training staff at different hospitals in the region. In addition, several educational meetings were held at the FVL with support from ISN Ambassador and Continuing Medical Education (CME) Programs. These exchanges have fostered lasting academic connections.

Read more about one of the ISN CME meetings held during the ISN-TTS STC Program here

With increased kidney pathology and immunogenetics knowledge, the FVL has implemented alternative management methods to support patients requiring special CKD management.

Expanding kidney care research

The collaboration has significantly increased the FVL’s involvement in research, notably in pediatric and adult nephrology and kidney transplantation, resulting in publications in renowned scientific journals and near completion of several key research projects.

Dr. Restrepo states, “These achievements mark a significant milestone in our scholarly exploration. By establishing research alliances, we have broadened our collective expertise and provided a robust platform for sharing experiences. This comprehensive approach has significantly enriched our kidney transplant program for both children and adults.”

Future directions

The centers have now established an ISN-TTS STC trio partnership with the Hospital Universitario San José de Popayán to continue training staff involved in kidney transplant-related activities in the region.

They have outlined three primary goals for their future endeavors:

  • Sustaining Pasto’s kidney transplant program to solidify its reputation
  • Executing the FVL’s first kidney transplant at Hospital San José in Popayan to establish it as an institution of reference
  • Ensuring ongoing education and development for all personnel involved in kidney transplant activities in the Southwest of Colombia

Dr. Restrepo concluded, “We are genuinely happy with our participation in the ISN-TTS STC program, as every facet of our engagement has yielded favorable outcomes for our centers.

We wish to express our heartfelt gratitude for the opportunity afforded by the ISN STC program, which has supported many invaluable experiences that have measurably fortified the landscape of kidney health in the southwestern region of Colombia.”

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