Researcher focus: Dr Kate Bramham
Dr Kate Bramham is a Consultant Nephrologist at King’s College Hospital and Senior Clinical Lecturer at King's College London. She heads up a number of projects we fund. We caught up with her for a quick Q&A to find out what makes her tick.
First off Kate, how did you get into science and research? Was it something you wanted to do from an early age?
I loved medicine from the age of 12 but never really wanted to do any research. However, I looked after a pregnant lady with heart and kidney problems in my second year of training, and realised that I really wanted to understand why her pregnancy was so difficult and how I could make it better.
Tell us about your first research project, what was it about and why did you pursue it?
I studied bacterial infections in children with malaria in Kenya in my elective. It was an interesting time, ploughing through millions of hospital papers in a back room, whilst there were hundreds of people queuing outside and sometimes chickens on the ward!
Why did you choose renal medicine as your speciality?
Because it's amazing!!! I was always attracted to the most challenging problems, and when I was working in different specialties the most interesting patients kept getting taking over by the renal team, so I had to try it. I love getting to know my patients, and seeing them again when they are well. It's so rewarding.
What does your clinical experience bring to your research?
It has directed me so many times! After starting my consultant post I became more aware of the major health inequalities in end stage kidney disease. I was looking after lots of people of Black ethnicities, and lots of people with severe mental illness. I am now studying lots of different ways to prevent early kidney disease to try to prevent the high rates in these at-risk populations.
Tell us about the Hidden BP project, what made you want to pursue this and what do you help to achieve?
We are training peer educators (community kidney champions) to tell people from ethnic minority communities about kidney health and to have a urine kidney health check using a mobile phone app. We are approaching people through their GPs and in community centres such a churches, mosques and community groups.
What do you hope will come as a result of your research?
That we will raise more awareness about how silent kidney disease is until it is advanced, and that early checks and treatment will prevent more people suffering.
How important is research in furthering your field?
Extremely! I would love to be able improve the lives (even if in a small way) of as many people who are not getting the most out of current health care services as possible. Doing research allows me to potentially impact on more people that just clinical care alone.
Tell us about your recent work in policy and helping to remove ethnicity adjustment for kidney function testing?
I recently did a study which showed that people of Black ethnicities should not have their kidney function falsely augmented by calculations that we were previously using. Along with others, I advocated that this practice should be changed, and now I'm delighted that it has been stopped across the UK and wider.
What impact will it have on patients?
I hope it will allow us to identify early disease sooner, and to more accurately assess disease severity.
Do you feel that researchers have a role to play in influencing policy?
Definitely, our work should influence what decisions are made – if it's good enough and done well, of course!
How important is it to have diversity from a gender and race perspective in research?
Essential! I feel passionately that we all have important voices to guide what our research priorities should be, and how we deliver research. Including different perspectives will allow us to design the best studies, to benefit the most people, especially those who need the most support or treatment.
What would you like to say to any aspiring students who want to take the next step into research?
Do it! You will never regret it!
What is your proudest moment as a researcher?
Seeing the baby of a pregnant woman in Sierra Leone when he was 3 months old. We had tested her with a finger prick creatinine test, as part of my study, and she was found to have kidney failure. She was transferred for dialysis and they both survived. A very happy day!