A self-proclaimed “accidental pediatric nephrologist,” Julie Ingelfinger, MD, is this year’s recipient of the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology’s (ASPN) Founder’s Award given annually to recognize persons who have made a “unique and lasting contribution to the field of pediatric nephrology.”
“Getting this award causes one to reflect on ‘why me?’” Ingelfinger says. “It is rewarding to be recognized for several decades of work. I was shocked though. I feel many other people in my field deserve this award.”
Ingelfinger says she went to medical school at Albert Einstein College intending to become a pediatric psychoanalyst; she was enjoying a pediatric internship at Einstein when she learned she would be moving to St. Louis. There were by that time in the year no pediatric residency slots remaining at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. But she was offered a fellowship in pediatric nephrology and fast tracking for residency because the chief of pediatric nephrology had heard her give a talk on some kidney-related research she had done for fun as a medical student. Although not what she originally planned, Ingelfinger says she pursued the fellowship, and after about six weeks decided the field interested her after all.
“I’m lucky to be in this field,” Ingelfinger says, “in which one can meet, diagnose and treat children with diverse problems. By the discoveries we make, we can solve unanswered questions and improve the outcome for many patients.”
Dr. Ingelfinger had passion for learning as a 5-year-old.
In addition to her role at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC), Ingelfinger does basic and clinical research, is Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and has served as a Deputy Editor for the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) since 2001. MGHfC Chief of Pediatric Nephrology Harold Jueppner, MD, says Ingelfinger has especially thrived in her position at the NEJM.
“Her work at the Journal has helped the pediatric nephrology community gain more visibility,” Jueppner says. “She’s always struck me as someone who very quickly grabs new ideas and translates them into something a lay person can easily understand, and I think it’s a wonderful honor for her to receive the award.”
The ASPN Awards Committee chose Ingelfinger, an active member and one of the first female presidents of the society, from among 10 candidates and will present her with the award on April 30th at the annual Pediatric Academic Societies/ASPN meeting in Boston on April 28 – May 1.
“The most important reason she got this award is because of her accomplishments and her leadership,” ASPN President William Schnaper, MD, says.” She wrote an entire book on pediatric hypertension during an age when books are written by many experts and then edited by a few people. Instead, she took the time to master the field from beginning to end and shared that mastery with the rest of us. What I don’t think many people know is how tirelessly and generously she shares her knowledge with others, regardless of the size or perceived importance of the particular group.”