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A Leading Doctor on Stress, Kidney Health and Work Life Balance

Dugan MadduxFeaturing Dugan Maddux, M.D., Vice President for Kidney Disease Initiatives, Fresenius Medical Care North America

Happy Women’s Health Month! One issue that doesn’t get nearly enough coverage: chronic kidney disease (CKD). It’s on the rise for both women and men. We asked Dugan Maddux, M.D., vice president of kidney care initiatives at Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMCNA), to fill us in about CKD and to share her advice as a working woman for more than 25 years.

Q: Why is CKD on the rise, and what should women be on the lookout for?

A: CKD affects an estimated 30 million people in the U.S. The vast majority of people who have early stage CKD will not have any symptoms of their kidney disease. Without proper care, however, early CKD can progress until treatments like dialysis or kidney transplant are needed. CKD is common today in part because people are living longer and are surviving with diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease, and surviving is a good thing! Now that people are taking better care of their high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, we need to focus on taking better care to protect our kidneys.  

Busy lifestyles with work and stress can lead to less exercise and unhealthy eating. Many people in the U.S. also experience food insecurity which is associated with eating nutritionally poor foods that are high in calories. Your kidney health depends on a healthy body, so high blood pressure, diabetes and being overweight all damage your kidneys and can result in CKD.  

Women should have a thorough annual health checkup that includes simple blood and urine tests to check on kidney function. Women with diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular disease or a family history of kidney disease are at increased risk for CKD and should be screened annually for it.  

Q: What are three of the most important things women can do as to keep their kidneys healthy?  

A: The most important thing is to stay healthy overall. If I had to pick only three key healthy kidney recommendations, they would be: exercise regularly and eat a nutritious diet, maintain a healthy body weight and do not smoke.

Be good to yourself and your body! Have healthy daily habits, and if you have any risk factors for CKD, get screened to check on your kidneys.  

Q: What is the most important thing you have learned about how to balance work and life?  

A: Make time for yourself. Women are great caregivers to spouses, children, friends and parents, and I’m no exception. I’ve come to realize that I need to take time for myself to rest and exercise. I can’t care for others if I’m not feeling healthy and well.

Q: Championing innovations is a big part of your role at FMCNA. What principles guide you in cultivating a culture of innovation?  

A: At FMCNA, we are on a mission to improve the quality of life of every patient, every day, and that is a big job—and opportunity. We constantly must evaluate which clinical processes are working well and which ones need improvement, and we must be nimble enough to integrate new medicines, procedures and treatments as soon as they are proven effective. This requires innovation and constant process improvement.

My most important principle is to be willing to try new things and learn from them. Every experience is valuable. Do not be ashamed or think you are not smart if something is not initially 100 percent successful. People who are not trying and occasionally missing the mark are not innovating and changing.  

Q: Finally, you have said that you didn’t imagine your career path when you were 25. What advice would you offer to women just starting out today?   

A: My advice is to value every phase in your journey. Everything you do and every experience you have teaches you something. Twenty-five years ago, I could not have imagined the job I am now doing, yet my clinical nephrology work, my writing and journaling, my volunteer work and being a mother are all critical experiences that inform my work today.

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