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A transplant nephrologist is a medical specialist who coordinates care of patients needing or having a kidney transplant. Nephrology is a branch of medicine dealing specifically with disease and function of the kidney. A transplant nephrologist has special education and training in end-stage renal failure as well as pre-and post-transplant care. Transplant nephrologists may also care for patients with kidney disease that have not reached end-stage renal failure.
Though they often have their own private medical practice with offices, transplant nephrologists also work closely with transplant surgeons and their medical team in hospital settings. The transplant nephrologist is responsible for coordinating patient care prior to and after a kidney transplant. They play a role in the selection process and acquisition of transplant recipients and help provide long-term follow-up care after the transplant procedure.
The education involved in this specialized branch of internal medicine is as rigorous as most medical specialties, but also involves very specialized internships and fellowships. The transplant nephrologist not only has very specific knowledge of kidney functions, physiology and disease, but also of immunosuppressive drug therapy, side effects and complications relevant to kidney transplantation. Due to the complex, yet not uncommon, nature of kidney failure and the collective agreement by the medical community that transplantation is the preferred treatment, there is a demand for transplant nephrologists.
While practicing their specialty, these specialty doctors work closely with other medical professionals to provide the necessary care that is required for a patient in both the short and long-term following a kidney transplant. The process for obtaining a transplant can be daunting for the patient and though success is not always guaranteed, the patient’s need for a transplant nephrologist is life-long following a kidney transplant. Due to the nature of this specialty, a transplant nephrologist may experience emotional and physical stress, work long hours or frequently be placed on call.
In addition to the demand of skilled medical doctors in this subspecialty, other professional opportunities exist for transplant nephrologists. Some become educators and researchers and others go on to direct transplant programs in hospitals. In terms of medical specialties, transplant nephrology is considered a relatively new subspecialty that has grown in demand as organ donation awareness has increased amongst the general population. Many medical universities offer fellowships for the transplant nephrologist and the need for such specialists is likely to increase as the “baby boomer” population ages and the rate of diabetes — one of the leading causes of kidney failure — continues to rise.
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