There are things we are doing here that even the biggest centers don’t do. We have a very proactive research component to what we do and we firmly believe in bringing the research that we do to the bedside to provide better care for our kids.
Meet Patrick Brophy, MD
Patrick Brophy, MD, MHCDS, is director of pediatric nephrology, dialysis, and transplantation and vice chair of clinical innovation for pediatrics at University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. He holds the Jean E. Robillard, MD Chair in Pediatric Nephrology at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. In addition, he is assistant vice president of eHealth and Innovation for UI Health Care. A native of Canada, he joined UI Children’s Hospital in 2007.
Did you always want to be a doctor?
No. I actually decided in my second or third year of university. I started out wanting to be a historian, but after my first year, I did much better in science courses than in the arts courses. I also had very strong mentorship from a friend of my father. My dad was a pilot. His friend was a pilot as well, but primarily he was a surgeon. I had many extended conversations with him about medicine and the opportunity to spend time with him at his office and in the local hospital.
How did you decide on pediatric nephrology as a specialty?
I decided in my last year of medical school. I went to medical school in Saskatchewan, where I grew up. I was looking after a little girl, and there were no pediatric kidney specialists in the province at the time. There were only adult nephrologists. An adult nephrologist was doing a pretty good job taking care of her kidney-wise but was not paying attention to her school-wise or social-wise. After that, I went and did a month of pediatric nephrology training in a neighboring province and never looked back.
How did you make your way to the University of Iowa?
When I was a fellow at the University of Michigan, the head of the department of pediatrics was Jean Robillard, MD [now vice president for medical affairs at Iowa and dean of the UI Carver College of Medicine], who was also a pediatric nephrologist from Canada. We had common interests in research, patient care, and health care delivery. When he came back to Iowa [from Michigan], he asked if I would come. When I visited, I was pretty stunned at the opportunities that I thought would be here. I turned out to be right. It’s been an amazing decision.
What would you like others to know about your division?
In 2010, for the first time, we developed the only independent pediatric dialysis unit in the state of Iowa. We started a pediatric nephrology fellowship. We are a center of excellence for rare renal disease, and we conduct many clinical trials. We were the first center in the western hemisphere to use eculizumab (a drug) to do a kidney transplant in a patient with atypical HUS [hemolytic uremic syndrome, a rare kidney disease]. We developed the protocol here, and people are using it all over the world. We were also the first center in the United States to offer pediatric liver dialysis through a machine called MARS®. We have a great division, and we have done amazing things.
Why is telemedicine important to people in Iowa?
There are many opportunities to practice telemedicine in a very rural state like Iowa. We have families who may not have the resources to travel to get to us. Some families have kids with special needs. They might need to touch base [with an expert] but don’t need a physical exam. In a state like ours, people may drive five to six hours to come see us for an appointment of 20 to 30 minutes. Telemedicine gives families a choice. We received a USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] grant to put in equipment across the state. We are working hard on that and integrating telemedicine into our electronic health record. The grant helps cover the cost of video equipment, and this type of equipment is used around the world in health care. It’s like Facetime or Skype but HIPAA-secure [meets requirements of federal regulations for privacy involving health care records].
Telemedicine also allows Critical Access Hospitals around the state to keep patients in their hospitals, when appropriate, and not transfer them to us. The technology allows us to check in on them as well.
What does your research involve?
My area of basic scientific research is really focused on how kidneys develop in the womb and the factors that might affect development. I am interested in people who don’t have normal kidney development and the mechanism that causes that. I am trying to understand why some patients are born with one kidney and why some are born without kidneys.
What are you looking forward to about our new children’s hospital?
For us [our division] specifically, the opening of a new dialysis unit will be amazing—a new space and new equipment. It will be so good for the kids. Imagine spending several hours in a chair at a time [receiving treatment]. Now the kids will have a better view and a nicer environment. Dialysis will be integrated into the hospital, so we can get wherever we need to in a quick amount of time. We also have transplantation services, and we are excited to look after pediatric kidney transplant patients there.
We are also looking forward to the child-focused space. We value our adult [specialist] colleagues, but it will be nice to have a child-focused space in one area. It helps with collegiality throughout pediatrics. It helps with conversations. It helps with everything related to children’s health.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Pediatric nephrology has allowed me to look at many different aspects of medicine. It involves both acute care and chronic care, and I have a lot of interactions with patients and families. To take a child born with kidney disease or failure, help them with dialysis until they are old enough to get a transplant, and then watch them flourish is pretty remarkable and fortunate and something I value every day. There are too many stories to pick one. Many of them bring tears to my eyes. I think I’m one of the luckiest guys I’ve ever met. I am doing exactly what I should be doing.
Pediatric Medical Services
- Kidney Transplant
- Rare Kidney Diseases
Honors and Awards
- America's Best Doctors: 2013
- MD, University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine
- Pediatrics, Canada University of Manitoba-Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg, MB
- Pediatric Nephrology, University of Michigan Hospitals, Ann Arbor, MI