Duke Nephrology is actively involved in clinical research that translates to advances and improvements in clinical care.
Examples of our clinical research activities include studies of factors influencing the morbidity and mortality of patients on hemodialysis, studies of non-pharmacological treatments for hypertension, and investigations into the genetics of glomerular disease.
Clinical Research Investigators
Blake Cameron, MD, MBI
Blake Cameron, MD, MBI is a Medical Instructor in the Division of Nephrology. Dr. Cameron specializes in population health and innovations in healthcare delivery. He believes that all patients living with chronic kidney disease ought to receive the right care at the right time. His research focuses on designing and evaluating informatics tools to improve the health of patients living with kidney disease and other chronic illnesses. He leads several initiatives related to computable phenotypes, electronic health record-based disease registries, predictive analytics and novel care models. He is particularly interested in improving collaboration between primary care providers and specialists. He co-directs the Duke Learning Health System Training Program, which provides residents, fellows, pharmacists and nurses hands-on experience in data science, informatics, project management, and quality improvement. He also serves on the NIH National Kidney Disease Education Program Health IT Working Group.
Clarissa Diamantidis, MD, MHS
Clarissa Diamantidis, MD, MHS is an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Nephrology. Her research interests include the use of tailored health information technology (IT) platforms such as mobile phones, websites, and telemedicine in Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) care as a means to engage patients and improve patient safety in CKD. Her current research explores the relation between eHealth literacy and patient safety in CKD, and is funded by a Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23 099385) from the National Institute Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. She is an active member of the American Society of Nephrology (ASN), and serves on the Education Committee for the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) and the Oversight Committee for the Network of Minority Research Investigators (NMRI).
Matthew Ellis, MD
Matthew Ellis, MD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine (Nephrology) and Department of Surgery (Abdominal Transplant). He serves as the Medical Director for the kidney transplant program. In this capacity, he oversees the operation of the program and participates in quality improvement, outreach, and marketing.
Ellis is involved in a number of research initiatives related to kidney and pancreas transplant. He has been involved in the development and oversight of the Abdominal Transplant Repository, in to which blood, urine, and biopsy specimens are collected and saved for current and future research projects.
Ellis participates as the principal or co-principal investigator for kidney transplant-related, industry sponsored drug trials. These studies focus on novel agents or combinations of established medications in an attempt to balance immune system suppression while minimizing side effects, including infection. Additional research interests include: radiologic approaches in the setting of transplant acute kidney injury; the development of chronic kidney disease in non-solid transplantation, specifically hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; the immunology of polyomavirus infection; and outcomes after kidney tranplantation.
Rasheeda Hall, MD, MHS
Rasheeda Hall, MD, MHS is a Medical Instructor in the Department of Medicine (Nephrology). She is interested in the understanding how older adults with kidney disease develop important functional limitations. Furthermore, older adults with kidney disease have to navigate a complex and fragmented healthcare system. Her research focuses on ways to enhance the quality of care and quality of life of older adults with kidney disease. Her research involves epidemiology and health services research methodologies.
John P. Middleton, MD
John P. Middleton, MD, is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of Site-Based Clinical Research. His current research efforts aim to improve understanding of the association among traditional and novel cardiovascular risks and kidney disease.
Ultimately the goal of the ongoing research will be to improve the management of the unique cardiovascular complications that occur in patients with chronic kidney disease, and to reduce the risk of developing advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Clinical trials underway at Duke include EVOLVE (Evaluation of Cinacalcet Therapy to Lower Cardiovascular Events), SHARP (The Study of Heart and Renal Protection), and a prospective trial in diabetic nephropathy.
In addition, Middleton serves on the steering committee for the NIH clinical trial in focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). Middleton and his group are also performing retrospective trials with large clinical databases to determine etiology of outcomes from sudden cardiac arrest in patients with advanced CKD.
Recent studies have helped identify interventions to reduce progression of hypertensive nephrosclerosis and diabetic nephropathy. The research group has also determined exposures that augment the cardiovascular risk of chronic kidney disease, including CKD that is maintained on hemodialysis.
Patrick H. Pun, MD, MHS
Patrick Pun MD, MHS, is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of Dialysis at the Durham VA Medical Center. His current research interest is in understanding the mechanisms of cardiovascular disease among patients with chronic kidney disease, with a particular focus on the epidemic of sudden cardiac death. The ultimate goal is to reduce the impact of sudden death through improved risk stratification and novel risk mitigation therapies.
Current investigations are focused on identifying novel genetic and biomarker risk factors among CKD patients, understanding the interplay of hemodialysis-specific exposures in the development of arrhythmias, and examining the risks and benefits of implantable cardioverter defibrillators among CKD patients using clinical trial and registry data.
Julia Scialla, MD, MHS
Dr. Scialla is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and core faculty member at the Duke Clinical Research Institute. Her research program focuses on the role of nutrition and metabolic complications, such as abnormal phosphate and acid-base homeostasis, in progression of kidney disease and its complications. The overall goal of Dr. Scialla’s research program is to understand how physiologic derangements that occur early in kidney disease can inform strategies to prevent kidney and cardiovascular disease at the level of individual patients and populations.
Dr. Scialla is an active ancillary investigator in the prospective Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort (CRIC) Study and has worked closely with other chronic kidney disease (CKD) cohort studies including the African American Study of Kidney Disease and Hypertension (AASK). She engages a number of study designs in her work including prospective cohort studies, observational comparative effectiveness studies, and patient-oriented physiologic studies.
Stephen R. Smith, MD, MHS
Stephen R. Smith, MD, MHS is Professor of Medicine, Clinical Director, and is involved in several studies related to kidney tranplantantion.
Transplant nephrectomy: We are studying the utility of resection of failed kidney allografts with regard to time to subsequent mortality, time to retransplantation, and outcome after subsequent transplant.
Industry-sponsored immunosuppression trials: We are involved in a number of industry-sponsored multicenter immunosuppression trials.
Laura P. Svetkey, MD, MHS
Laura P. Svetkey, MD, MHS, is a Professor of Medicine, Director of the Duke Hypertension Center, director of Clinical Research at the Sarah W. Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center, a faculty member in the Mandel Center for Hypertension and Atherosclerosis, and Vice Chair for Faculty Development and Diversity in the Duke Department of Medicine.
Svetkey has over 25 years of experience in the investigation of hypertension and related areas, such as obesity and kidney disease. She has maintained a consistent focus on disparities and minority health.
Svetkey has conducted several NHLBI-sponsored clinical trials that address dietary influences on blood pressure (including the landmark DASH and DASH-Sodium trials); behavioral interventions for preventing and treating hypertension (including the PREMIER and Hypertension Improvement Project [HIP] trials); and behavioral interventions for sustained weight control (e.g., Weight Loss Maintenance trial).
She also studies the use of technology for promoting health behaviors related to hypertension and obesity (e.g., Cellphone Intervention for You), physiologic effects of non-pharmacologic interventions (e.g., DASH-mechanism study; DASH-sodium genetics study; MURDOCK metabolomics study), and sociocultural influences on health behavior related to hypertension (e.g., Effect of Socioeconomic Status on Availability and Affordability of DASH dietary pattern).
Crystal Tyson, MD
Crystal Tyson, MD is a medical instructor at Duke Nephrology and she also has a faculty appointment in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine. She is a certified clinical hypertension specialiast. Her research interests are to reduce racial and health disparities among patients with hypertension and chronic kidney disease using lifestyle modifications. My past and current research investigates the effects of diet (i.e., the DASH diet, sodium reduction), exercise, and weight loss on blood pressure and kidney function, as well as the effect of bilateral renal artery denervation on blood pressure.
Myles Wolf, MD, MMSc
Myles Wolf, MD, M.Med.Sc. is the Chief of Duke Nephrology. The focus of Dr. Wolf’s research is disordered mineral metabolism across the spectrum of chronic kidney disease, including dialysis, kidney transplantation and earlier stages. His research has been published in leading general medicine and subspecialty journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Circulation, Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, and Kidney International, among others. His primary contributions have been in the area of hormonal regulation of phosphate homeostasis. He has helped to characterize the physiological role of fibroblast growth factor 23 in health and in chronic kidney disease, and the impact of elevated fibroblast growth factor 23 levels on adverse clinical outcomes in patients with kidney disease.