San Francisco VA Health Care System
SFVAHCS Researcher Receives Prestigious Barnwell Award
May 3, 2019
SAN FRANCISCO - Dr. Michael Shlipak recently received the prestigious Department of Veterans Affairs’ Barnwell Award for his pioneering work investigating the causes and consequences of kidney disease and for his impactful efforts to improve strategies for the early detection and prevention of the disease.
When Dr. Shlipak joined the San Francisco VA Health Care System (SFVAHCS) in 1998, early stages of kidney disease were largely ignored and clinically unrecognized. Through his early seminal work, Dr. Shlipak helped to establish chronic kidney disease as a significant cardiovascular disease risk factor. Realizing the importance of diagnosing early kidney disease in averting adverse consequences, Dr. Shlipak then focused his efforts on evaluating novel methods of detecting kidney disease at the earliest stages. Dr. Shlipak demonstrated cystatin C’s ability to more accurately reflect kidney function and better prognosticate long-term outcomes compared with creatinine. Because of this work, international guidelines have recommended measuring cystatin C to improve the diagnosis and classification of kidney disease, and cystatin C has become clinically available within the SFVAHCS and many other hospitals. More recently, Dr. Shlipak and his collaborators’ investigations of urine biomarkers of kidney injury are expanding the appreciation of multiple dimensions of the kidney, beyond glomerular function, and have illustrated the immense potential of these biomarkers to improve medication safety and management of conditions such as hypertension and heart failure.
Dr. Shlipak’s impact has stretched beyond his research. He has mentored more than 20 clinical investigators in the fields of nephrology and cardiology and informally guided countless others. Armed with research and life skills from their mentor, Dr. Shlipak’s mentees have gone on to make their own indelible marks in science. Based on his beliefs that mentorship/sponsorship of young investigators must be tightly integrated with the discovery process and that each individual’s input to a team should be valued regardless of training level, Dr. Shlipak co-founded, along with Dr. Carmen Peralta, the Kidney Health Research Collaborative in 2015. This vibrant research hub has grown from four to now more than 12 team members and has an expanding global network of collaborators.
The Barnwell Award is the VA’s highest honor for clinical research – it is given each year to a VA investigator whose scientific contributions have fundamentally changed the clinical approach to conditions important to Veteran’s health care. The award is named after Dr. John Blair Barnwell, who was a highly regarded clinician-scientist, educator, clinician, and former director of VA Research and Education. Dr. Barnwell joined the tuberculosis division of the VA in 1946 and led the first study that proved the efficacy of streptomycin as a therapy for tuberculosis, a study that helped launch the VA Cooperative Studies Program.
“Receiving the Barnwell Award is a tremendous honor for me. I am immensely grateful to the mentors, collaborators and mentees who have teamed up with me in countless endeavors, bringing their utmost enthusiasm, curiosity and inspiration towards a shared mission of addressing kidney disease,” said Dr. Shlipak. “Since I am receiving an individual honor for collaborative work, I feel the need to emphasize that this award represents a collective achievement for us at the San Francisco VA Health Care System and the Kidney Health Research Collaborative."
Dr. Shlipak will be presented with the 2018 Barnwell Award on July 26 during a public ceremony at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.