Research Spotlight: Wisit Cheungpasitporn, MD, FASN

An interview with Dr. Wisit Cheungpasitporn in the Division of Nephrology:

What is your professional background? 

After graduating from Chulalongkorn University in my home country of Thailand, I came to the United States in 2009 to complete an Internal Medicine residency at Bassett Medical Center in New York. Afterwards, I went to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for Nephrology fellowship training. I completed a postdoctoral degree in the clinical and translational science (CCaTS) program in 2015, which provided me hand-on research experience and equipped myself statistical analysis skills – especially epidemiology, clinical research, meta-analysis and critical thinking process based on the integration of clinical reasoning and medical evidences. Following Nephrology fellowship, I had additional kidney and pancreas transplant fellowship training at Mayo Clinic. I was awarded the 2016 Donald C. Balfour Research Award, given in recognition of outstanding research as a junior scientist whose primary training is in a clinical field. My works have also been internationally recognized in American Transplant Congress (ATC) as an oral presentation at ATC 2016 and both oral presentation and poster of distinction at ATC 2017, and an oral presentation at ATC 2018.

I joined the Nephrology and Transplant Nephrology team here at UMMC in August 2017. Currently, I am a Fellow of the American Society of Nephrology (FASN) and I also serve as an academic editor for PLOS ONE and reviewer for Journal of American Society of Nephrology and American Journal of Transplantation.

Briefly describe your research. Why is it important? 

During my Nephrology training, with advice and guidance from my mentors, I discovered joy in conducting clinical research and began to incorporate clinical research into my career. I enjoy clinical research because it combines my love of science and caring for patients — ultimately to improve their outcomes and quality of life. My research interests are in risk factors and outcomes in acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease, kidney stones, electrolyte abnormalities, glomerular diseases and kidney transplantation. My particular expertise is in the areas of observational studies, systematic reviews and meta-analysis. I especially enjoy conducting systematic reviews to identify comprehensively all studies for a specific focused question in Internal Medicine, Nephrology and Transplantation. Very recently, at UMMC, Dr. Prakrati Acharya, our Nephrology fellow who just received the Research Fellow of the Year Award and Dr. Maria Gonzalez Suarez, one of my Nephrology colleagues worked with me on a meta-analysis project entitled “Hypocalcemia and bone mineral density (BMD) changes following denosumab treatment in end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patient” to assess the incidence of denosumab-associated hypocalcemia and effects of denosumab on BMD in ESRD patients. This work was presented in National Kidney Foundation Meeting in 2018, featured in medical news, and published in Osteoporosis International Journal.

Who are your mentors and why?

I have been very fortunate to have many wonderful and supportive mentors during internal medicine residency training, fellowships and my academic career. Dr. William LeCates, my residency program director; Dr. Suzanne Norby, my fellowship program director; and Dr. Stephen Erickson, my continuity clinic supervisor during my fellowship, are my main clinical mentors who demonstrated and helped me learn the value of “the needs of the patient come first”. I have learned from hand-on research experience in risk factors and outcomes studies in acute kidney injury with Dr. Kianoush Kashani; glomerular diseases and dysregulation of the complement alternative pathway with Dr. Fernando Fervenza and Dr. Sanjeev Sethi; electrolyte abnormalities with Dr. Qi Qian; hematological aspects of renal disease and lactic acidosis with Dr. Nelson Leung; chronic kidney disease and kidney stones with Dr. Stephen Erickson and Dr. John Lieske; and kidney transplantation with Dr. Hatem Amer, Dr.Carrie Schinstock, and Dr.Lynn Cornell. My academic career, publications, awards, and research skills are not only the representations of my hard work, but an accumulation of all the advice and support that I have received from my mentors.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing research?

Starting is the hardest part for almost everything in life including research. Great research opportunities do not just come to us easily, but we need to eagerly look for them. At the beginning of my research career, I built my writing skills for publications by working with my mentors on case reports and case series. Many of them, subsequently brought up to many citations and interesting research projects. Thus, at the beginning of research career, I suggest new researchers to try to take every opportunity that you are interested in and you think you will learn and enjoy the process. When you have strong commitment to pursuing rigorous research, seeking out mentor(s) who have skills you want to master, and expressing your strong interest and commitment. In the well-known Chinese historical novel “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, Liu Bei, a Chinese warlord and member of the Han royal house, needed to make three trips to the house of Zhuge Liang (in order to express his commitment), who later on, accepted Liu Bei’s request and became his strategist.

What do you like most about UMMC?

Working with fellows and residents here at UMMC is very enjoyable. I received so much support and teaching when I was a trainee. Thus, I want to return this support, advice, and teaching to the next generation. My mentors believed in me and supported me when I was just a graduate from Thailand; so, I believe that all trainees can always improve and learn if we provide them opportunities. Busy days are not uncommon, but there is never a dull day when I work with fellows and residents.

Tell us something about yourself that people may not know.

I grew up in Thailand and I am from a farming family. I am the fourth sibling of five children in my family, and I was a very inquisitive child ¾ always running around, climbing and accidentally breaking things. I am the only person in my family in the field of medicine. I probably got a genetic deficiency in the alcohol-metabolizing enzyme from my mother. I am an animal lover and an 80/20 vegan.


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