One of the division’s newest faculty members recently returned to Duke after a fellowship at Johns Hopkins and four years on the faculty at the University of Maryland. In this week’s faculty spotlight, Clarissa Jonas Diamantidis, MD, talks about her dual appointments in the divisions of General Internal Medicine and Nephrology, her research on chronic kidney disease, common misperceptions about health information technology, and what she missed most after seven years away from North Carolina.
When did you join the division?
I completed my Internal Medicine Residency here at Duke, but left 7 years ago to pursue my nephrology fellowship. I returned this September as dual-appointed faculty in the Divisions of General Internal Medicine (primary) and Nephrology (secondary). My family and I are thrilled to be back!
What are your responsibilities within the division? What does a typical day for you look like?
My time in GIM is completely devoted to my research efforts, and I am lucky enough to be supported by a K23 Career Development Award from the NIDDK. I am a clinical investigator with interest in the use of health information technology to engage high risk patients with chronic kidney disease in an effort to improve patient safety. A typical day for me involves a lot of computer time. I’m usually trying to finish up a manuscript or refine a grant submission. When I’m not at my desk, I’m probably in a research meeting. My clinical time is spent in the Division of Nephrology at the VA, so that provides a nice diversion from my research time.
Last year you authored a study examining how patients with chronic kidney disease used the internet for health information. What were the major findings of that research?
That study was part of a larger study I was involved in with my mentor while at the University of Maryland, entitled “Safe Kidney Care,” which is a prospective study examining the frequency of adverse safety events in individuals with pre-dialysis chronic kidney disease. As part of that study, participants were encouraged to log into a website which provided information of important safety concepts in kidney disease (for example, avoidance of NSAIDs).
We were able to track how often participants logged into the website and which safety modules they visited most frequently. About 30% of invited participants logged in, which is actually a bit higher than other studies, and as it turns out, most participants were interested in calculating their renal function. I’m working on a similar study where we will have the ability to track users of a website to assess their computer literacy and patient safety knowledge.
What are the major challenges and opportunities that you see in this area?
The major challenges in this line of research are the misconceptions about health information technology. Most people assume that if you are older (as is the case with many individuals with kidney disease) you cannot use technology, and that is simply not true. There are even misconceptions from the users themselves that they will not be able to use a smartphone or text even if provided help, and we have found that this is also not true. As far as I’m concerned, there is no more ubiquitous way to disseminate health information than via a device that at any given time is in the pocket of over 80% of Americans.
You just returned to Duke, where you completed your residency, after completing a fellowship in nephrology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
What did you find you had missed most about Duke or North Carolina upon coming back? Hmmm… that’s a tough one because it is hard to narrow it down to just one thing. Our long-term goal was always to come back to North Carolina. In general, I would say that we missed the people the most. It’s so refreshing to have a conversation with a stranger on the street, something that rarely happened in Baltimore! My kids will grow up around friendly people, which is how it is supposed to be! And Duke is such a collaborative place.
I’ve been delighted at how helpful everyone has been since my return. I can think of at least 3 people here at Duke that have certainly gone above and beyond in order to make sure I transitioned here easily. Oh… and BBQ, definitely the BBQ!
You're attending the Duke LEADER: Leadership Development for Researchers this February. What are you hoping to learn from this event? How will you use this information in your research efforts?
I am very excited to participate in the Duke LEADER series, as from what I understand, it is a phenomenal course. For me personally, the timing of the series is perfect as I am now in the process of operationalizing my research study and assembling my research team here at Duke. The skills I learn through the Duke LEADER program can be implemented early in my research, and I am hopeful that it will help to smooth out some of the anticipated bumps along the road involved in running a research team. At the very least, it will allow me better insight into how to deal with conflicts when they arise.
What passions or hobbies do you have outside of the division?
Most of my time outside the division is devoted to family; my husband and my two children, ages 5 and 3 (which is my real job). Outside of that, I love music, singing and theater. My kids get so sick of listening to me sing show tunes in the car, but I feel as their mother it is my job to torture them just a little bit, since I understand once they reach their teenage years they will be the one torturing me! I also enjoy doing crafts, planning parties, and making homemade decorations which I think adds a certain touch of home. If I wasn’t a physician, I’d probably have a full-time job on Etsy!