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Spotlight: For Priya Verghese, MD, helping children and families is a “privilege”

Pediatric Nephrologist Priya Verghese, MD, is the medical director of the kidney transplant program at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.
Pediatric Nephrologist Priya Verghese, MD, says she is inspired by resilience of the children she treats at University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. “Kidney transplants are a way to give a child with a horrific disease a new lease on life," she added.

When your child is faced with a potentially life-changing health condition, you want to make sure the person providing the care is passionate about his or her work and focused on doing what’s best for your family.

That’s what you’ll find with Pediatric Nephrologist Priya Verghese, MD, who sees patients at University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. Verghese specializes in pediatric kidney transplant care and related medical research. She's also the medical director for the pediatric kidney transplant program. 

“Kidney transplants are a way to give a child with a horrific disease a new lease on life, giving them the ability to eat what they want, live how they want,” Verghese said. “I enjoy being a part of that process.”

We asked Verghese why she’s passionate about her work, what initially drew her to this medical specialty and about research she’s leading in this area. Here’s what she said:

What do you love about your work? What drives you?

Our patients are unbelievably resilient, tough, fun and amazing people with amazing stories. It’s easy to remain motivated to do the best you can for them. In pediatrics, it’s not just the story of one awesome kid, but it’s the story of the whole family rallying behind the kid to help him or her remain strong. It’s really a privilege to be part of their lives. 

Why did you choose this area of medicine?

I always thought the kidneys were a fascinating but complicated set of organs, and I knew I wanted to be a nephrologist before I decided to become a pediatrician. As a nephrologist, I love that I can help in a lot of areas of the hospital, including the intensive care unit (ICU), the emergency room and the bone marrow transplant program, among others. It feels good to be involved in so many different specialty areas. My decision to do pediatrics came later—and I’m glad I did it. A lot of doctors and care providers worry about the sadness that sometimes comes with difficult pediatric cases, but I’ve found that kids are often resilient and have a great way of bouncing back. For me, it’s really worth it to see that.

Learn more about our pediatric kidney care program at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.

What is your patient care philosophy?

When I look after a patient and their family, I see myself as a teammate. I keep the patient, their family and their preferences right in the center of my decisions. I like the challenge of balancing the family’s requests with my medical training and knowledge. Every therapy, medication or recommendation I make only comes after careful consideration about the patient’s health, the family’s requests and the that person’s ability to comply with my recommendations.

What is your medical background?

I knew I wanted to practice medicine when I was 10 years old and I never changed my mind. I got into medical school in India when I was 18 and finished in four and a half years. I came to the United States with the intention of training to become a pediatrician, but was fascinated by the kidney transplant field and decided to pursue this area. I studied at the University of Illinois in Chicago, did a nephrology and transplant fellowship at the University of Washington, Seattle, and earned a Master’s in Public Health so that I could do research. 

We’ve performed more than 1,000 kidney transplants at the University of Minnesota. Read more about our kidney transplant program.

How are you working to advance new research and standards of care at UMMCH?

I’m very active in medical research. I conduct multi-center clinical trials including hospitals across the country. My goal is to improve transplant outcomes for children across the world.

How are you an advocate for pediatric transplant care?

In addition to providing clinical care and performing research to improve outcomes for children receiving kidney transplants at the University of Minnesota, I also hold several positions in national and international transplant organizations, including the American Society of Transplantation, the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology, and United Network of Organ Sharing. I use these positions as fulcrums to leverage positive change to ensure that children get the best access to transplant care and the best chance to good transplant outcomes.