Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Kidney Month: Meet the medical director of Northern Health’s Kidney Care program

Dr. Anurag Singh is the medical director of Northern Health’s Kidney Care program based in Prince George and offers advice during Kidney Health Awareness Month.

Dr. Anurag Singh is the medical director of Northern Health’s Kidney Care program based in Prince George.

The reason he’s here is because he understands the challenges of continuity of care in rural areas and finds fulfillment in his practice where his relationship with his patients takes them through the long process of being diagnosed with kidney disease, dialysis if things deteriorate and then hopefully an extended better-quality life after transplant and beyond.

“I really liked this area of ​​medicine because I felt we had a longitudinal relationship,” Singh explained. “It isn’t like a surgeon where you go and do the surgery and the problem is fixed and that is done. Once people have kidney disease and sometimes they are diagnosed at a relatively young age as a result of high blood pressure or diabetes, they would follow up with a nephrologist for a long time.”

People could still maintain a certain quality of life despite their failing kidneys because of science, modern medicine and organ transplantation, Singh added.

“So knowing people from early diagnosis, through dialysis and seeing them getting the gift of a transplant and maintaining their ongoing life – that relationship over many years is really something that I enjoy,” Singh said. “I really love it.”

It’s very important to Singh to work in an environment where he could raise awareness of kidney disease and that’s why he chose to speak to The Citizen now as March is Kidney Health Awareness Month.

“We don’t hear as much about kidney disease – we hear so much about cancer and heart disease – but we need to talk about kidney disease because there are a lot of consequences – and people who have high blood pressure and diabetes and heart disease often have kidney disease but it’s not often recognized,” Singh said.

Singh and his family had never lived outside an urban center before making the move to Prince George in 2013. He was used to living among millions of people his entire life and enjoyed the support and resources available to him to practice medicine. Here in Prince George he is one of three kidney specialists that cover the entire Northern Health region, which is a huge geographical area, he noted.

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“It was quite an eye opener for me to really understand what was necessary, what was needed to provide our services to the North and to expand those services I was asked to take up the role of medical director of the kidney program in Northern Health which had to be expanded to include many smaller communities and rural places in BC,” Singh said.

That required a lot of travel as he reached out to the people of the North, he added.

“Being here not just as a doctor I felt I could make a big difference, which fits in with my values,” Singh said. “This is why I went into medicine. I wanted to serve people, make a difference, and I felt I could do a lot more in a short period of time being in Northern BC where there is so much need. Every day when I go to work I feel I am needed right away. I feel like everything I do is so impactful. It’s so rewarding – it changes people’s lives and that’s very gratifying for me. So here I am.”

The idea of ​​moving to Prince George was inspired as he and his young family would visit Canada and discovered British Columbia had the relatively laid back lifestyle and connection to nature they were looking for, he said.

They made the decision to settle in BC and raise their family when Singh and his wife were expecting their second child.

“One of the challenges was to find employment in one hospital,” Singh said.

When they first moved to BC, Singh worked in Abbotsford while his wife worked at BC Children’s Hospital. They managed that for two years.

“Then a position came up in Prince George so we as a family took the plunge to come to the north in 2013,” Singh said. “It’s been quite a journey for us as immigrants from India, to England for education and then to Canada and Northern BC.”

Singh was born and raised in India and he left home for higher education on a scholarship to go to the UK.

“I did my further studies at the University of Bristol where I trained first to become a general internist and then a kidney specialist,” Singh said.

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After graduating from medicine, which takes five years, Singh said, there’s another three to four years of training as an internal medicine specialist, which every nephrologist does.

“So when I was doing my general internal medicine training I did a six-month attachment in nephrology,” Singh explained. “I was in a large academic center in Bristol and I had the opportunity to participate in research, looking at what makes the kidneys fail when people have diabetes and high blood pressure. So that was quite enlightening and it increased my interest and my commitment to this field of medicine.”

So on top of all the other years of study that was another three years of research he did.

After that he took another four years of additional training to be a nephrologist, he added.

This year’s Kidney Health Month theme is Bridging the Knowledge Gap. Right now kidney disease, in some form, will affect 1 in 10 Canadians at some point in their life.

There are many chronic diseases that are only diagnosed in late stages and early detection is the key, Singh said.

“I would say that people over the age of 40 should be checking their blood pressure and going for a health check with their family doctor and taking more interest in prevention is a good idea,” Singh said. “That is true for any chronic disease, including kidney and obviously focusing a lot more on their health – even if they are in good health, maintaining good health is essential.”

Especially if there is a family history of kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease.

“If you are of a certain race like somebody of Indigenous descent is at much higher risk of kidney disease and we would ask them to be screened by their family doctor,” Singh said.

It’s a simple blood or urine test that will put their mind at rest, he added.

“If there is a kidney problem detected there is a lot that can be done in the early stages rather than when people come too late, which is one of our big issues in Northern BC,” Singh said.

For more information visit https://www.worldkidneyday.org/ or the Canadian Kidney Foundation at https://kidney.ca.

Nation World News Desk
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