What a difference a year makes – an end of year reflection by Sandra Currie - CEO Kidney Research UK
As we approach the end of the year, I have been reflecting on the many things we have celebrated during 2017. We have funded more research than ever before and taken forward some ambitious projects with both new and established partners. And we are thankful and grateful to the very many people who help us in so many different ways. Their support has enabled us to make swifter progress as we tackle the problems faced by people who have kidney disease every day.
A personal highlight for me this year was our formal merger with Kids Kidney Research. Having worked closely with the Chair, Dr Dick Trompeter, and the Board of Trustees over the years, to conclude with the formal union and develop joint plans for a future with more research into childhood kidney disease, felt like a great step forward.
A key aim for 2017 was to amplify our messages about kidney disease, and we have been able to extend our reach – both into the research community and even wider, to patients, families and supporters. We are determined to ensure that patients continue to play an integral role, as we continue to develop this approach and as we strive to improve the experience of those who generously support us. We have made some changes to the way we are organised, to improve how we work so that we can reduce waste and make faster progress. But I know there is so much more to do.
I have felt my usual disappointment when I write to grant applicants to tell them their excellent research ideas will have to be turned down because we don’t have the money to fund them. Who knows what future breakthroughs might be in their ideas, and what benefit they might have brought patients? I really do look forward to the day when I don’t have to write any of those letters. However, to do this I know we need to attract additional and significant new investment and support from people who share our ambition to unlock the answers to the many as yet unanswered questions we have about kidney disease.
A few months ago, I was enthusiastically describing our progress and plans to a young man with kidney disease, and his brother, at a reception. He listened with interest to my reassuring outline of how much work we are doing, grateful that so many people are making progress that he will benefit from. His brother was not so reassured, he took my hand, looked me straight in the eye and said: “That’s all very well, Sandra, but it’s not enough, is it?” Of course he was right. Too many people’s lives are still being cut short. Too many patients continue to endure a poorer quality of life.
Another memorable moment in 2017 was our annual Fellows Day held in Swansea. I love sitting back and listening to the researchers we have funded describing their work – with so much passion. There was a great atmosphere in the lecture theatre as we were treated to snapshots of the work going on in labs and hospitals around the country – all of it aiming at improving the prospects for patients. Many of our researchers work quietly and steadily all year round, making progress one step at a time, as they move our understanding forward. Many of our donors match that commitment by, quietly and gently donating on a regular basis through direct debits or payroll giving, or in response to our mailings with a gift. They are matching the commitment of the researchers. Finally, I would like to toast all of those who, in or out of the public eye, help us provide support for kidney patients both now, and in the future. It matters.
Merry Christmas everyone; and here’s to how much more we can accomplish together in 2018!