Meet a TREC fellow: an interview with Dr. Terri Menser

Former StaffStaff Updates, Transplant News

At TREC, we have assembled a new group of researchers working in transplantation called the TREC Fellows. Over the next few weeks, we will introduce you to each one by summarizing an interview with them conducted by different staff members in the lab. This week, we will learn about Terri Menser and her experience with kidney transplantation research.

Interviewer and author: Katia Dahmani, Intern

At Houston Methodist, Menser is conducting transplantation research focused on further understanding factors predictive of living donor kidney transplantation. Her current projects include looking at the length of the full transplantation process for pre- and non-preemptive kidney patients, knowledge factors of kidney patients and their family and friends, kidney treatment and healthcare quality from patients’ perspectives, differential outcomes of COVID-19 and comparing transplant recipients to the non-transplant population, and kidney transplant patient treatment preferences during COVID-19.

When asked about the end goal of all of her research projects, Menser said, “Ultimately, the goal in all my research is to increase access and improve the overall quality of life for patients.” Specific to research about kidney disease and transplantation, Menser remarked that, “Renal disease has long-lasting effects for patients and their loved ones. There’s a lot that we can do to increase access and knowledge and just make things better.” Although Menser has always had a passion for improving patient care, her research did not begin with kidney transplantation research.

Menser’s research career was prompted while obtaining her MBA during a transformative time in healthcare, which led to her decision to pursue healthcare research. She said of her experience during her MBA that, “I wasn’t looking to go into a position where I could make the most money when I got my MBA. Working was never about just a paycheck for me; I wanted something more – to make a difference. Debates over how to best reform our healthcare system in a meaningful way is what really hooked me.” And this interest led to her obtaining a PhD in Health Services Research. Her introduction into transplantation research came through a collaborative grant application with two surgeons, in which Menser offered her methodological advice, and soon this collaboration grew into a research partnership.

Like the broader transplantation research community, Menser says she is interested in the misconceptions about transplantation. She is currently working on a grant application called MYTHBUSTERS in an effort to figure out what people still were unsure of in terms of transplantation, and why donation rates were so stagnant. Regarding her work of clearing up patient misconceptions, she stated, “We know that patients and the larger community don’t really have a good idea of what’s involved. So, we try to translate the reality and real information to those folks. That’s what we’re all trying to work on.”

Filling in the knowledge gaps for patients and their friends and family through her projects hasn’t been met without challenges though. When it comes to her qualitative projects, finding the appropriate time to interview transplant patients has always been an obstacle. Before COVID, Menser said she would try to schedule talking to them during their long stays at the transplant center.

COVID-19 has both added to research difficulties and created additional research projects. With COVID-19 came Menser’s new study on treatment preferences of utilizing an online survey to understand how currently listed kidney transplant patients felt about pursuing transplantation during the pandemic. But additionally, COVID has highlighted the digital divide between populations. “There have always been difficulties because of familiarity with and access to digital tools,” she said.

Despite Menser’s non-clinical education, her involvement in kidney and transplantation research has increased her knowledge of transplantation and renal disease. Overall, Menser’s passion for improving patient care through research is clear. She stated, “[Research] is the tool that I can use to realize the goal that is important to me, which is patients having more access to better health, leading to better life.”

To read more about Menser’s research, click here.