In a hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, Dr. Roberto Pecoits-Filho and his team conducted a simple saliva test with patients admitted for care. This effort identified undiagnosed kidney disease in 20% of the group. Almost 15% of the hospitalized patients died—the only independent predictor of those deaths was the patient’s level of saliva urea nitrogen. Roberto understands too well that in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions of the world, when faced with the challenge of such basic disparities in disease awareness and diagnosis, treatment of kidney disease can become a secondary target.

Roberto with colleagues and staff of the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, Malawi.

Leading this and other international health projects is a passion for the newest Senior Research Scientist at Arbor Research Collaborative for Health. Roberto’s career-spanning engagement in all facets of global kidney health is the core of what makes him and Arbor Research a great partnership.

Roberto joined us in early September. In essence, he was already a member of the Arbor Research team, having served as a CKDopps Steering Committee member and Country Investigator for Brazil since study initiation in 2014. In that role, he has been instrumental to the study success in Brazil, a support for our global research, and a creative, effective, and respectful collaborative partner. He says I was thinking about a career change, something with a global perspective and a more effective outreach, when I saw the job post in Twitter, and thought: what a great opportunity, that is it.”

Roberto has been a global participant in nephrology throughout his career. He received his medical and research education and training in his hometown of Curitiba, Brazil. Roberto completed a nephrology research fellowship at the University of Missouri, Columbia and spent extended periods as a visiting scholar at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden and the George Institute in Sydney, Australia.

His career in Brazil has included many fundamental roles. Roberto served as co-chair of the Latin American Dialysis and Transplant Registry, a repository of clinical and epidemiological data from 22 countries. He also led The Brazilian Peritoneal Dialysis Multicenter Study (BRAZPD), the most extensive observational study on PD in Latin America.

Roberto has contributed to many nephrology societies and organizations over the years. He currently serves on the executive committee of the Standardizing Outcomes in Nephrology Group (SONG) Initiative, and now works on the development of new recommendations for blood pressure management in CKD by KDIGO, the global organization developing guidelines for kidney diseases. His work with the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) began about ten years ago as Young Nephrologists committee chair, and currently, he is a member of the Executive Committee of this global society. He will continue his ISN activities with the goal of promoting access to a kidney health registry for all countries.

In addition to his work at Arbor Research, Roberto will continue part-time in his role as Professor of Medicine at Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR), and a kidney physician at the University Hospital in Curitiba, Brazil. He feels that maintaining his active engagement in trainee mentoring and clinical care is essential to inform his ongoing research and global advocacy.

Roberto with his mentee fellows and nephrology residents at the PUCPR Santa Casa University Hospital in Curitiba, Brazil.

Roberto’s work with Arbor Research will center in the DOPPS Program Area, with an initial focus on CKDopps research and development activities. His expertise and interest in diabetes and cardiovascular disease in CKD aligns well with CKDopps research directions. He will become a leader of the global CKDopps, and in the longer term will pursue greater integration of the DOPPS family of studies to increase focus on the transition from CKD to kidney failure and its treatment. Roberto hopes the future will hold opportunities to promote capture and linkage of renal data through emerging technologies, particularly in underserved developing regions, with the greater objective to integrate research projects that will create low-cost alternatives for kidney disease treatment in developing countries.

Joining Roberto in Ann Arbor are his wife Martha Garrett Pecoits and son Peter. For Martha, a native of Kansas City, this is a homecoming. She is a professional chef and ex-owner of Missouri Gourmet Deli in Curitiba, Brazil. Peter is a sophomore at Skyline High School where he has already found his niche in soccer. The move to Ann Arbor seems to suit them, “My family is so happy, Martha is back home after 20 years abroad, and Peter enjoying life in the USA. I guess his soccer team is also happy to have a Brazilian addition to the squad.”

Join us in welcoming such an accomplished research partner and global champion for kidney disease to the Arbor Research team.

 

As a Medical Editor, Jennifer McCready-Maynes works with investigators, analysts, and project teams across Arbor Research to produce scientific papers, reports, and other deliverables. She ensures that all written content is of the highest quality, and that the knowledge gained through research is available to the people it helps the most.

In addition to editing a wide range of written content, Jennifer also manages the process of submitting research papers to peer-reviewed journals.

“The back end of the publication process – uploading the paper, managing submission, coordinating revisions – can be very time consuming,” said Jennifer. “With the editors managing this process, the authors are free to focus on the content.”

She adds, “From the perspective of an author, it’s a huge bonus to have somebody on your side working to make your paper more accessible and to get it published quickly and easily.”

The Editorial team frequently works with many different departments across the organization, and Jennifer enjoys the cooperative work environment.

“We do have ‘collaborative’ in our name, and I think that is a big part of the spirit of the organization as a whole. It’s just a really great feeling of everybody working toward a goal - everybody is on the same team."

 

Chad Cogan is an experienced research analyst who performs quantitative research for the Health Policy and Practice program area. He works to design and implement analytical approaches for the End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Quality Incentive Program (QIP) project and the evaluation of the Home Health Value-Based Purchasing (HHVBP) incentives, as well as other health services research.

Chad’s main responsibilities are developing SAS code to perform complex statistical analyses on large data sets and writing reports. He has contributed to papers accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals and abstracts accepted for presentation at major scientific meetings. Chad noted, “I get to enjoy a good mixture of programming, statistical modeling and analysis, and writing.”

Many Research Analysts, including Chad, enjoy the opportunity to learn about new areas of research. “I’ve definitely learned a lot about ESRD over the years through collaboration with our clinicians and other investigators,” Chad reflected. “I have had the privilege to work with so many talented individuals who have great respect for one another. Most importantly, I feel that the work that I do impacts patient lives in a positive manner.”

 

Bob Droppleman started working at Arbor Research when it was just getting started in 1997. In addition to serving as the IT network manager and the security officer for the organization, Bob’s collegial spirit and desire to share his deep knowledge sets the tone for the entire organization.

Often, Bob hires staff for the IT department who have experience in IT operations. In terms of professional growth, Bob supports his staff and promotes from within. Bob notes, “If someone shows interest in learning about an IT issue or concept, I encourage that, and we’ll try to find a way to use it. If you’re interested in what you’re doing, you’re much more likely to be engaged.”

Supporting professional growth within the department has helped Bob meet growing IT security needs. Research projects require IT staff who can identify risks to the system and mitigate those risks. Most members of the team don’t have security experience when they join, but Bob makes sure that those with an interest are trained in security and assigned challenging work.

As Arbor Research has grown and technology has changed over the years, the work of the IT department has evolved, as well. Bob enjoys the changing nature of the work, and stays with Arbor Research because he knows the work is meaningful. “We are here to improve patient lives and improve patient outcomes, and that is the focus of the organization. That is a big motivator for me. So when I’m stuck with a big problem, I think, ‘this is not in aid of some short-term goal, this is in aid of keeping our research going – and that research actually helps people.’”