Donation enables enriched training in kidney care

When Marcia Bell first developed kidney problems at age 15, the specialty of nephrology didn’t exist.

It was 1955, and the notion of a kidney transplant between non-identical twins was just that – a notion, one that wouldn’t be realized until a decade later.
Bell underwent several operations to save part of her one kidney that hadn’t failed, which kept her going for 25 years. During this time, she earned bachelor’s degree in education at UBC, married, raised two children, launched her teaching career and volunteered at her local hospital.

“I knew eventually my kidney would fail,” Bell says. “The one that was working eventually did.”

Bell’s health began to deteriorate in her 40s. She went on dialysis but continued to feel ill. In 1987, Bell was one of the first patients of B.C.’s new kidney transplant program.

“I’ve had my new kidney for 29 years. I’ll be 77 this year, and I’ve been very well since I had the transplant,” says Bell, who lives in Vernon. “I got to see my kids graduate, and have grandchildren, and experience all those wonderful things that happen when you get to mid-life and beyond.”

Through volunteer work with the Kidney Foundation of Canada during the decades after her transplant, Bell came to know Adeera Levin, Professor and Head of the UBC Faculty of Medicine’s Division of Nephrology. Last year, Bell donated $1 million to the Faculty of Medicine to enable UBC faculty members, visiting faculty or trainees in nephrology to undertake an activity that promotes excellence in clinical education and training.

“My hope is students and faculty have an opportunity to participate in something special that really improves some aspect of the delivery of kidney care in British Columbia, recognizing anything that happens here has broader implications in other parts of Canada and other countries,” Bell says.

The Marcia Bell UBC Nephrology Initiative will provide $50,000 each year for the chosen activity. This year, Bell’s gift will be used to provide all division members, including fellows, with comprehensive training in state-of-the-art ultrasound, bioimpedence (body composition) and kidney function measurement tools for the clinical evaluation of kidney patients and research with immediate benefit to patients. The training will be done by on-site and visiting experts.

“Ms. Bell’s gift addresses a need for sustainable funding for enrichment of our faculty and students,” Dr. Levin says. “Flexibility is important. Sometimes we need to send someone away on sabbatical to learn a new skill and bring it back, and sometimes we need to fund a junior person to take a course in another place for a year. At other times, we need to bring in experts to enhance the skill sets of UBC faculty.”

“To me, it’s really about learning and sharing knowledge,” Bell says. “I want my donation to benefit other people with kidney disease the way I benefited.”