Dr. Michael Shlipak receives prestigious Barnwell Award

It is our great pleasure to share that SFVAMC’s own Dr. Michael Shlipak is this year’s recipient of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Barnwell Award in recognition of his pioneering clinical investigation on causes and consequences of kidney disease and for his impactful efforts to improve strategies for the early detection and prevention of kidney disease.

The Barnwell Award is the VA’s highest honor for clinical research – it is given each year to a VA investigator whose scientific contributions have fundamentally changed the clinical approach to conditions important to Veteran’s health care. The award is named after Dr. John Blair Barnwell, who was a highly regarded clinician-scientist, educator, clinician, and former director of VA Research and Education. Dr. Barnwell joined the tuberculosis division of the VA in 1946 and led the first study that proved the efficacy of streptomycin as a therapy for tuberculosis, a study that helped launch the VA Cooperative Studies Program.

When Mike joined the SFVAMC as faculty in 1998, early stages of kidney disease were largely ignored and clinically unrecognized. Through his early seminal work, Mike helped to establish chronic kidney disease as a significant cardiovascular disease risk factor. Realizing the importance of diagnosing early kidney disease in averting adverse consequences, Mike then focused his efforts on evaluating novel methods of detecting kidney disease at the earliest stages. To this end, Mike demonstrated cystatin C’s ability to more accurately reflect kidney function and better prognosticate long-term outcomes compared with creatinine. Because of this work, international guidelines have recommended measuring cystatin C to improve the diagnosis and classification of kidney disease, and cystatin C has become clinically available within the SFVAMC and many other hospitals. More recently, Mike and his collaborators’ investigations of urine biomarkers of kidney injury are expanding our appreciation of multiple dimensions of the kidney, beyond glomerular function, and have illustrated the immense potential of these biomarkers to improve medication safety and management of conditions such as hypertension and heart failure.

To speak of Mike’s research achievements alone, however, would neglect a key portion of his impact in the fields of nephrology and cardiology and the SFVAMC. Mike has mentored more than 20 clinical investigators and informally guided countless others. Armed with research and life skills from their mentor, Mike’s mentees have gone on to make their own indelible marks in science. Based on his beliefs that mentorship/sponsorship of young investigators must be tightly integrated with the discovery process and that each individual’s input to a team should be valued regardless of training level, Mike co-founded the Kidney Health Research Collaborative (KHRC) in 2015 with Dr. Carmen Peralta. This vibrant research hub has grown from four to now more than 12 team members and has an expanding global network of collaborators. Mike’s commitment to tackling urgent issues in nephrology and cardiology and his constant drive for innovation and collaborative spirit are imbued in the KHRC’s ethos. 

Mike will be presented with the 2018 Barnwell Award on July 26 during a public ceremony in the SFVAMC Auditorium. Time TBD. 

Please join us in congratulating Mike Shlipak on his remarkable achievements and well-deserved Barnwell Award for Clinical Research.