Internationally renowned nephrologist receives academic promotion at Monash



Nephrologist Kevan Polkinghorne was recently recognised for his clinical and research achievements, receiving an academic promotion at Monash University.

Head of Haemodialysis Programme at Monash Health, Professor Polkinghorne’s research interests are in haemodialysis and chronic kidney disease.  Internationally regarded as haemodialysis vascular access expert, Professor Polkinghorne’s early research led to the recognition of the important link between haemodialysis vascular access type and mortality in Australia and New Zealand.

“My PhD research led to reporting and practice changes with ANZDATA registry and nephrology unit across Australia and New Zealand, and I led the first CARI guidelines (the Australian and New Zealand kidney guidelines group) evidence implementation project to change clinical practice,” Professor Polkinghorne said.

Professor Polkinghorne’s current major projects include two multicentre randomised controlled trials, investigating ways of improving outcomes for haemodialysis patients.

“I’m leading an NHMRC-funded joint Canadian/Australian randomised trial to determine if high dose fish oil in haemodialysis patients affects cardiovascular outcomes,” Professor Polkinghorne said.

“This study aims to recruit 1200 haemodialysis patients across Canada and Australia and builds upon a previous small randomised trial performed in Canada that suggested a benefit of fish oil on cardiac haemodialysis patients.”

Cardiovascular events are a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in dialysis patients and traditional therapies which are effective in the general population, such as the statins to lower cholesterol, are not effective in this patient population.

Professor Polkinghorne said there is a real need to test more novel therapies in this population. The trial has commenced in Canada with recruitment in Australia to begin next month.

This trial continues Professor Polkinghorne’s interest in fish as an agent in haemodialysis following completion of another randomised trial of its use in early arteriovenous fistula failure, published in JAMA Int Med earlier this year where he was the senior author.

In another NHMRC-funded study, Professor Polkinghorne is a chief investigator on a project implementing a structured intervention aimed at bacteraemia related to central venous catheter use in haemodialysis patients.

Bacteraemia related from dialysis catheters is a major source of patient morbidity and mortality in dialysis patients and costs the healthcare system substantial amounts of money each year.

“This project is a multi-million dollar partnership between the NHMRC, Kidney Health Australia, the CARI guideline group, the Victorian and Queensland health departments and more than 30 hospitals throughout Australia,” Professor Polkinghorne said.

“Using a stepped-wedge, cluster trial design we will implement a treatment bundle where all aspects of catheter management from insertion to removal is standardised with the hope of reducing catheter sepsis and complications.”

“Previous work in the ICU settling has shown this approach to be effective so we hope to replicate these results to the dialysis settling.”

Professor Polkinghorne’s other research interests include the epidemiology of chronic kidney disease with his work on the kidney aspects of the AusDiab chort study.  Professor Polkinghorne has published more than 144 peer-reviewed papers, including in the JAMA and the NEJM.

He has co-supervised two PhD students to completion and is currently supervising three PhD candidates.

Professor Polkinghorne said his academic promotion is nice recognition—both personally and professionally—for all the work he has done.

“I especially acknowledge Professor Peter Kerr for encouraging me to do my PhD in clinical research, which back when I did it, was almost unheard of in nephrology,” Professor Polkinghorne said.