WOMEN SHAPING HISTORY 2014
Dr. Mary Malewicz-Carter:
Renal Research Institute Sustainable Kidney Care Foundation
What has inspired your current career path?
I am continually re-inventing myself, adjusting my career path accordingly, from the early years working in molecular biology, synthesizing DNA and cloning genes to the present, managing clinical research at the Renal Research Institute. I am also running the Sustainable Kidney Care Foundation (SKCF), whose mission is “to bring treatment for kidney injury where none exists,” with a focus on saving young lives of women and children, the most vulnerable segments of any population. I continue to work full time at the Renal Research Institute while SKCF remains my labor of love where I volunteer, guiding it to a be an international force in combating kidney disease.
What are some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced? How did you overcome them?
Understanding the many different cultural landscapes in which the SKCF team operates is essential. A good example is Africa, a vast continent with 870 million people with many distinct ethnic groups that have their own language, religion and a distinct way of life. Each country has its own import regulations that can be daunting to overcome. However, program sustainability remains the biggest challenge. We also desperately need data on the incidence and prevalence of kidney disease in the developing world. Organizing a kidney treatment program, for example, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, a francophone country recovering from a 2011 civil war, requires bringing on board translators, sensitivity to the local rules and regulations governing the provision of healthcare. SKCF’s approach is to respect and appreciate that all cultures are unique and differences are treasured. In order to ensure each program’s sustainability, SKCF donates supplies for only two years during which time the hospitals commit to save money collected for treatment to buy supplies in year three. This allows for the hospital to provide much needed treatment and become self sufficient without the need for any investment which can be most difficult to obtain in these resource poor economies. One must work closely with the doctors and clinical staff to assess their needs and provide the necessary training and support their requests, the operative term is “support their requests.” We’ve just started collecting data from the programs we initiated, but this represents only a tiny fraction of the affected population. We need an outreach program to sample what happens in the remote villages where children are dying from reversible kidney injury as a result of severe diarrhea and malaria and we are working towards making this happen.
What are some of the accomplishments you are most proud of?
In 2009, when I received news of the first patient having been successfully treated at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center in Moshi, Tanzania, at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, I knew then, that we can do it, that SKCF can be the leader in organizing treatment programs for reversible kidney injury in low technology settings. Since then we have created nine programs in as many countries and expect to start five more in the coming year. More recently, in Jan. 2014 in Las Vegas, I was fortunate to have been able to organize and host the first Global Health Workshop focusing exclusively on kidney disease in the developing world, with speakers from Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Sudan, Malawi, Brazil and South East Asia.
Who have been the most influential mentors in your life?
My mentors are my family members. The strong sense of responsibility was a gift from my parents, Maria and Jerzy, who were forced to leave, what was then, communist Poland. The fabric of my family includes pioneers of art and victims of persecution; Kazimierz Malewicz, the founder of the Suprematist art movement and Dr. Stanislaw Malewicz, my grandfather who fell victim to WWII Katyn Forest massacre, both of whose life’s journeys were cut short by the political instability of Eastern Europe in the early 20th century. Their legacy has taught me that one person can affect major change, that diplomacy doesn’t always work, that taking risks is not only desirable but also rewarding.
What would you describe as a turning point in your life?
Life continually leads us into new directions however, I would like to acknowledge and give credit to the educational opportunities available in New York City, having earned a bachelor’s degree from Hunter College, which provided me with an excellent base, then two graduate degrees, an MS and MBA, from Wagner College. Many of the ideas which led to the creation of SKCF, I attribute to the stimulating atmosphere at the Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, where I obtained an Executive MPH while working full time at the Renal Research Institute and raising my twin boys, Calvin and Walter. And somewhere there, I found time to pursue and attain a PhD degree at the Medical University in Lublin, Poland.
What are your goals for the future?
My long terms goal is for SKCF to reach all countries that currently do not provide kidney treatment. To help save young lives of women and children by preventing death from reversible kidney injury resulting from childbirth, malaria, diarrhea, HIV and infections in every corner of the world. The short term goals include advocacy with the Ministers of Health and Finance of the countries where SKCF serves, to honor the international treaties and eliminate import duties on essential medicines, making the treatment affordable.#