By Yaquelin Arevalo Iraheta, Junior Research Associate
At TREC, we have assembled a new group of researchers working in transplantation called the TREC Fellows. This week, we’re learning more about Dr. Cristina Farkas-Skiles, who began having an interest in kidney transplantation when she was in medical school. After graduating from medical school, Dr. Farkas-Skiles decided to specialize in pediatrics. During her residency at UCLA, she explored different specialties and ultimately landed in nephrology. When asked why she chose to specialize in pediatrics nephrology, Dr. Farkas-Skiles replied that one of the best parts about being a pediatric nephrologist is that even if a child’s kidney fails, there are still other treatment options available that can help a child with chronic disease live a normal life. Dr. Farkas-Skiles goes on to say that “it is not just about prescribing a treatment and sending them on their way, but you can be a coach to someone.” She always wanted to be a coach to a child and their family and help them live a normal life even with chronic kidney disease . When asked what the most positive impact that pediatric nephrology has had on her life, she responded, “I enjoy getting to know patients and their families and seeing them go through something really tough and making it to the other side.” Something gratifying about her work is seeing a once very sick patient, but after taking care of them on their bedside and prescribing the treatment, she gets to see them on “the other side,” meaning off dialysis . What keeps her going is seeing an “8-year-old being a regular 8-year-old again after they had been in the hospital for so long”, being able to see a child living normally again, like going back to school and playing with their friends.
Another one of Dr. Farkas-Skiles’ interests is the study of barriers to transplant in complex psychosocial determinants of health. In her work in pediatrics, she focuses on integrating the entire family into the treatment. She noticed that family dynamics, the patient and family’s mental health, and mental readiness are often barriers to getting a kidney transplant. Decision-making research is critical. Dr. Farkas-Skiles pointed out that a patient staying too long on dialysis can be detrimental; conversely, getting a transplant when the patient is not ready can also be harmful to keeping the transplanted kidney healthy. She went on to point out the importance of always having a research project as a physician, “it helps open your eyes to asking why we’re doing what we’re doing.” As Dr. Farkas-Skiles continues her work in pediatric nephrology, she is reminded of why she does what she does, the joy of coaching a patient and their family, and seeing them through their treatment to live a normal life once again. She is thankful for all the new connections her research has bridged, especially through the TREC Fellows program, where she can meet so many people outside pediatrics and learn from so many perspectives. Dr. Farkas-Skiles says that “always having a research project as a physician helps open your mind to why we are doing what we’re doing,” and is looking forward to working together towards the goal of seeing patients make it through to live their best life.