Dr. Tamara M. Kear teaches patients hypertension management to safeguard their kidney function. “The researcher who is willing to develop the right tool and ask the right questions will find the best information directly from the expert—the patient living with the disease,” she observes.
You probably don’t think much about your kidneys—those fist-sized, filtering and fluid-regulating organs in your abdomen. But Dr. Tamara M. Kear does. With over 25 years’ expertise in caring for patients with chronic kidney disease, she focuses on hypertension, one factor in the rise of kidney disease. Ultimately, Dr. Kear wants to empower patients to take control of their health and prevent kidney disease, the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. She hopes to have a national and global impact. Dr. Kear conducts research with vulnerable Haitian immigrants living in the Dominican Republic. She studies barriers to hypertension management and, with students from the College of Nursing, monitors the blood pressure of hundreds of adults and discusses risk factors, management and medications. Her study has informed revisions to the health assessment tool used by North American teams providing care to this population.
Back home, Dr. Kear is part of an Open Exchange Research project using social media site, PatientsLikeMe.com® . Via this web site, geographically diverse patients interested in research participate in the refinement of a tool she is developing for practitioners. This tool will help them see how patients are doing at home and identify any barriers in managing their hypertension. It is a simple instrument, one that asks patients what they are actually doing, a step that helps the practitioner quickly get a handle on any problems. It promises to be an effective one since it is derived with the input of patients who share their cumulative experiences.