This past November, the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center became one of the first VA Medical Centers to no longer use an outdated calculator that included race to measure kidney health. This is the first of many future changes to remove race-based factors from health care and provide equitable care for all veterans at Jesse Brown.
Doctors use a blood test called eGFR to determine how well kidneys are working and to determine if a patient has kidney disease. Until now, a patient’s race was factored into the eGFR calculation.
Using race in this calculation is unnecessary and incorrect because race is a social construct and not a biological one. Furthermore, using race in the eGFR blood test can delay diagnosis of kidney disease for Black patients, leading to lower quality of care and may impact eligibility to receive life-saving treatments including a kidney transplant.
The VA is making certain that all its veterans are receiving excellent and equitable health care, from simple kidney health tests to local transplant services.
“Here at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, our goal is to provide equitable health care to every single veteran that steps through our doors, regardless of race,” said Dr. Natasha Nichols, co-chair of the Jesse Brown for Black Lives (JB4BL) Clinical Committee. “We believe this change in the eGFR is a positive step that highlights our commitment to serving our veterans through high-quality care devoid of racism.”
This change is in response to months of advocacy work done by the JB4BL Clinical Committee, a group of Jesse Brown clinicians and trainees.
The committee formed in June 2020 in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the unrest that followed, when many in health care began to examine the harms caused by racism in medicine and strive for equitable health care for all.
The committee consists of an interdisciplinary group of providers that includes physicians, pharmacists, social workers, nurses, psychologists, medical administration, pastoral services, education, information technology, medical students, residents, and fellows.
The change in the eGFR measurement is one of many future changes JB4BL will implement moving forward. The group aims to build patients’ confidence in clinicians.
Veterans coming to the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center can be confident that their clinicians are working to eliminate race in medicine and will strive to provide the best medical care possible.
Additionally, JB4BL seeks to empower individuals to create change in their communities. The hope is that the group’s fight for change in this area can inspire others to look at ways they can make a difference in what they see is wrong in their daily lives. No change is too small when it comes to fighting injustice and racism.
For more information on what the change in the eGFR means for patients, visit the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center website at va.gov/chicago-health-care/.