By Kasia Michalik
Jenn Smith-Williams, clinical administrative coordinator for Satellite Healthcare, and Susan “Susie” Reat, end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patient, from Austin, Texas, joined forces on May 22, 2011, and started an organization called Kidney Contenders. They wanted to contend for kidney health awareness, redefine how the information is promoted to the general public, get on board with organizations and promote research in respect to induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC) and chronic kidney disease (CKD).
“We weren’t going about the typical way of contending,” Smith-Williams said. “We were really fighting our way through a lot of red tape imposed by other nonprofit organizations, some for-profit organizations as well as some universities that didn’t have a problem hearing our interest and advocating the educational aspect of kidney health, but had a problem with any of their ideas possibly being stolen."
When Smith-Williams’ mother was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure, after waking up from a coma in 2009, she felt like she needed to help her mother and learn all she could about her condition. At the time she was an employee of a behavioral health insurance company. She left that company and began working for a nonprofit dialysis company as a clinical administrative coordinator.
In May 2011, she decided to commit her free time into educating the public about CKD. Kidney Contenders is a voluntary group of clinicians, non-clinicians and patients. They do not have membership fees nor discriminate.
“We educate using medical research facts, not just any old information,” Smith-Williams said. “We speak to these academia individuals to make sure we’re getting the best information for when we showcase our events.”
Smith-Williams originally started doing research on acidophilus bacteria which is considered a “good” bacteria and is found in the digestive track.
“I chose to study about it because I think that good bacteria could possibly cure kidney failure,” Smith-Williams said. “That was my thesis for many months before I decided to take a closer look at IPSC.”