The American Association of Kidney Patients presented the recipients of its 2017 Medal of Excellence during the Renal Physician Association’s Annual Meeting in Nashville.

“Members of the RPA know full well that kidney patients and their renal teams share a unique bond forged on the anvil of a tough and devastating disease,”said  Richard Knight, vice president and chair of public policy for AAKP. “It is a particular honor to present these awards before our allies of the RPA, because an organization dedicated to patient engagement and professional excellence they appreciate the signal sent when patients highlight the best of the best.”

These awards are the association’s highest honor for kidney health professionals and are designed to elevate national and international figures who have been in the forefront of scientific advances in kidney care and who are strong patient advocates.

The 2017 honorees are:

Inaugural Medal of Excellence Special Recognition was awarded to the late Celeste Lee, former manager of the Institute for Patient and Family-Centered Care Programs at the University of Michigan, and a former board member and Chair of the Patient and Family Partnership Council for the Kidney Health Initiative (Greater Detroit Area, Michigan).

The inaugural AAKP Medal of Excellence Special Recognition honors an individual whose personal and or professional life have been in full service to the ideals of medical excellence, substantive patient engagement and the protection and extension of life through medical research and innovation.

“Celeste Lee was an inspirational leader in the kidney community and we respected her both as a relentless and passionate patient advocate and as consummate policy professional, “said AAKP President Paul T. Conway.

“As a community, we mourn her recent loss and we will remember her life as a poignant reminder of how one person, selflessly committed to high ideals and principle, can better the lives of generations yet to come.”

Physician Category: William E.  Mitch, MD, Director of the Division of Nephrology at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, Texas) and a Professor of Medicine at the Selzman Institute for Kidney Health in Houston.

Nursing Category: Helen Currier, BSN, RN, CNN, CENP, Director of Renal and Pheresis Services at Texas Children’s Hospital and former President of the National Renal Administrators Association (NRAA) in Philadelphia.

Social Work Category: Mary Beth Callahan, ACSW, LCSW, Senior Social Worker at Dallas Transplant Institute and a former  Chair of the National Kidney Foundation’s Council of Nephrology Social Workers in Dallas.

Dietitian Category: Janelle Gonyea, RDN, LD, FNKF, Clinical Dietitian at Mayo Clinic Dialysis Services and Assistant Professor of Nutrition, College of Medicine (Rochester, Minnesota)

Technician Category: Philip M. Varughese, BS, CHT, Facility Administrator at DaVita, Inc. (Hillsborough, New Jersey)