Until our social-distancing era began, after a long day of being in the clinic or on rounds, transplant nephrology fellow Prerna Kumar, MBBS, always attended a 5:30 kickboxing class, whether she was feeling drained or motivated. Even if she worked late, she hustled to make the 6:30 class instead. Though Kumar only began kickboxing this past year, it quickly became a part of her daily wellness routine. Kumar was able to see the large impact this physical and mental wellness routine had on her professional life.
“It’s more of a discipline and has added a lot of positivity to my life,” Kumar said. “That is one thing that I always make sure to keep in my life. It’s more of a mental thing. It’s more about mental peace and doing something for myself which I never did before.”
Throughout the past year, Kumar has sought happiness in a lot of ways. Though Kumar completed UI’s nephrology fellowship and worked for a year as a hospitalist, she says she was happier once she joined the transplant fellowship program.
As the only nephrology transplant fellow, Kumar says a common misconception that many physicians have is that nephrology is only performing dialysis. However, transplant has opened a whole new door for Kumar.
“I’m so glad I chose transplant. This is what I want to do with my life, just transplant nephrology,” Kumar said. “I’ve seen genuine happiness in patients in transplant. I used to do dialysis rounds. I never got the satisfaction that I was doing something for them for some reason.”
Originally from Ranchi, a small town in East India, Kumar attended medical school at Sri Devaraj Urs Medical College in Southern India before moving to New York in 2011. After completing her residency at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Kumar joined the University of Iowa’s nephrology fellowship program.
“I came to Iowa, and it has been a family to me for the past four years,” Kumar said. With only three months left, Kumar is preparing for the next chapter of her life. Following her departure in June, Kumar will join faculty at the University of Illinois and has begun searching for apartments along Michigan Avenue. However, she will miss the support system she found in her mentors and colleagues here.
“I would say the most important support system is in the hospital with Dr. [Lisa] Antes, Dr. [Christie] Thomas, Dr. [Sarat] Kuppachi, and the other program directors,” Kumar said. “Whenever I feel low and feel like talking, they are more like friends to me. I just go barge in there and vent out whatever I’m feeling. It’s a great feeling to know they are there.”
Christie Thomas, MBBS, professor in the Division of Nephrology, has been one of Kumar’s mentors and friends since she arrived at Iowa.
“We were delighted when Prerna accepted our offer of a transplant nephrology fellowship and chose to stay with us for an additional year after her general nephrology fellowship,” Thomas said. “She has been an asset to our program and been a resource for residents and junior fellows.”
Kumar is incredibly thankful for her parents and their support in her professional and personal life. But with her entire family living in India, Kumar is grateful to only be a short car ride away from her mentors at Iowa next year. Thomas believes Kumar is ready to strike out on her own.
“She has shown tremendous fortitude, which will stand her in good stead as she gets ready to begin her own independent career in these uncertain times,” Thomas said. “And I know she is thrilled to be able to live and work in Chicago near the shores of Lake Michigan.”
“I’ve been so comfortable with the people and places here at Iowa, and I’m getting a little anxious to go to this new place,” Kumar said. “[Iowa] grows on you. People used to say that, and now I understand what they were talking about.”
While Kumar focuses mainly on the task at hand while treating patients, she believes it is important to keep in mind the personal, emotional, and mental well-being of each person. She believes this kind of discipline should also apply to the physicians treating these patients.
“We keep telling our patients to be compliant and take your medications,” Kumar said. “But it should start with us. We should be more disciplined with our personal wellness, both physical and mental.” For Kumar, that means getting through this current crisis and back to her kickboxing class.