Pediatric Nephrologist Dorey Glenn Pursues Kidney Health in Bhutan
School of Medicine
Far away in a small Himalayan kingdom, where steep mountains hold thousand-year-old Buddhist monasteries, a country pursues national happiness, measured by the collective well-being of its people. Physically isolated from most of the world until the 1960s, Bhutan was only accessible by foot from a northern route through the passes of Tibet, or a southern route through subtropical plains from India’s Assam and West Bengal. It is because of this challenging topography that Bhutan has retained its ancient traditions and cultural heritage.
For University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pediatric nephrologist Dorey Glenn, it can take two to three days of travel before his plane touches down in Paro, Bhutan, then there’s a two-hour drive to the capital of Thimphu. There, Glenn is working with the pediatric physicians, residents and staff at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Hospital, named for the dynasty that replaced Buddhist rule in 1902. His relationship with the hospital and National University of Bhutan began a few years ago. Today, he’s working with the hospital’s pediatrics department to provide nephrology training and clinical support.
“The burden of kidney disease has not been previously described,” said Glenn. “We are starting to describe the number of children presenting to the referral center with renal disease, but have no data describing how many children have chronic kidney disease in the community.”
In a country that’s mountainous, that has roads but is still developing, being able to look at epidemiology in a rural environment is not easy. But what is special about Bhutan–beyond the cultural beauty of spinning prayer wheels and colorful prayer flags, believed to generate spiritual vibrations when touched by the wind–is the country’s strong commitment to caring for its citizens, so strong that it sends patients to neighboring countries to get health services that aren’t available in Bhutan.
“When medications aren’t available in the country, there’s a process for bringing them in from the outside,” said Glenn. “The Bhutanese are very dedicated to providing high-level care with the resources they have, and to developing healthcare resources within the country. This is increasingly the case for patients needing dialysis and renal transplantation.”
Read more on the School of Medicine website.
January 23, 2023