Nutrition is an especially important issue for kidney patients, who can often develop adverse changes in nutritional status and body composition. As a nephrologist who specializes in nutrition research, Dr. Michelle Wong is hoping to find novel solutions and improve outcomes for this population.
She first began her research career while working with the Renal Research Institute in New York City, then worked with the international Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study, and has since brought her expertise and passion for dietary research to the BC Renal network.
Recently, Wong helped lead a BC Renal study using the PROMIS database to explore oral nutritional supplementation among non-dialysis chronic kidney disease patients. She notes this was a particularly unique opportunity, given that many other regions do not routinely offer oral nutritional supplementation to non-dialysis patients and that she was able to partner with allied health professionals to conduct the research.
The results may one day lead to more personalized care for patients. “We used a statistical technique called 'machine learning' to group patients based on their nutrition status profiles, and we observed differences in responses to supplementation among the different groups,” says Wong. “This will inform future studies assessing personalized approaches to nutrition.”
A feasibility study to advance this research will take place with the support of a UBC New Faculty Research Award, which Wong recently received.
Wong says that the collaborative nature of the BC Renal network is helpful for advancing her work: “It takes a team to do research, and I'm grateful that BC Renal supports interprofessional collaborations between nephrologists and dietitians. Allied health professionals are an important part of the multidisciplinary care team, and building capacity for interprofessional research is one of my aims.”
This will be important as she works toward leading more research in the future. Wong is currently a part of the International Society of Nephrology Emerging Leaders Program. “It has been a great opportunity to learn leadership skills and to collaborate with an international cohort of early-career nephrology health professionals on projects aimed at improving access to essential medicines,” she says.
Wong emphasizes that it is an exciting time to be involved in this line of research: “Through international collaborations, there are now many ongoing randomized clinical trials in nephrology assessing new therapies, and there are also many pragmatic trials that will help to fill evidence gaps and to inform real-world practice. Knowledge translation is the next key step to improve outcomes in our patients.”