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ASN leads the fight to prevent, treat, and cure kidney diseases throughout the world by educating health professionals and scientists, advancing research and innovation, communicating new knowledge, and advocating for the highest quality care for patients.

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Residents: Career Profiles

Dr. Núria Pastor-Soler - The Basic Scientist

Dr. Núria Pastor-Soler

I am a basic science researcher and nephrologist in the Renal-Electrolyte Division at the University of Pittsburgh. My research is in the field of kidney and epididymal epithelial cell biology and physiology. I am an independent investigator with a laboratory of three members plus one or two students and/or residents at any time. I am very thankful to many mentors and funding agencies for their support.

I obtained both an MD and a PhD, as I envisioned that my career would have both patient care and research components. During the clinical years in medical school I missed the research world, so I decided to apply to programs that offered strong training in nephrology basic research and grant writing in a collaborative environment. For my fellowship training I spent three years in the lab and the last year in clinical training. During the last of the three research years, I applied for and received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) K08 grant. In my first year as a junior faculty member, I took courses that offered training on how to negotiate, how to manage a lab, and how to write grants and scientific papers. After the first year of K08 support, I relocated for family reasons. I was offered a position at my current location, starting as an Assistant Professor. I also became very involved in the organization Women in Nephrology (WIN), which offered me many opportunities for leadership. For example, I learned how to organize a meeting by becoming one of the junior co-chairs for the WIN-ASN Professional Development Seminar at Kidney Week. The more senior WIN members were also sources of advice, mentorship and inspiration.

Overall, the daily schedule for a physician-scientist depends on whether one is "on (clinical) service" or not, and 8-10 weeks out of the year I am "on". In general, I check my patients' labs early in the morning using electronic remote access to patient data provided by the hospital. Afterwards, I exercise, do laundry, and take care of my children by getting them breakfast and to school on time. Triage of tasks is essential on these days, because coordinating lab work when I am on service takes at least two hours. When I am on service, I take care of the "important and urgent" matters first, which is the clinical service. Then I touch base with the lab members. I find it important that my lab members feel that they can reach me any time via email or phone. So my smartphone is an essential piece of equipment when I am on the wards. After I have seen my patients and attend the noon conference, I round with the team. I spend at least two hours on lab/research related paperwork in the afternoon after rounding, checking my list of tasks, and completing as many of those as possible. When I get home at around 7 pm, I cook dinner, eat with the family and then I read about and co-sign the notes on patients that were seen late in the day. Depending on the day, I can do some additional research-related work before going to sleep.

When I am not on service, I arrive at work and touch base with the members of my lab. I perform microscopy every day if the slides are ready. I often spend one hour every day coordinating experiments with collaborators. Once a week we try to hold a more general lab meeting and on average, every other week I participate in a physiology experiment with other members of the lab. I try to reserve time for writing during the daytime (grants or papers or both), but oftentimes meetings and conferences during the day leave little time for writing. I do most of my writing in the evening after everybody else in the house is asleep.

My work-life balance is no different than that of any small business owner. I work long hours, but I try to work from home as much as possible. I take vacations, but they are short. I have a good network of colleagues and friends. I keep in touch mostly via email with friends and colleagues across the country, and we have developed a strong network for advice and support. I try to give back to the community of nephrologists and researchers by volunteering to help local and national organizations. I use the weekends to catch up on household-related work. A couple of years ago we invited a worldrenowned nephrologist and researcher to speak at our institution. She has been very successful in her career, and her children are now grown. I wondered if she had any advice for junior women on how to combine work and family during the critical early career stage. She thought about it for a second and then she said: "I would tell junior nephrologists/researchers to work very hard, to pay their baby-sitter very well, and to let their house get as dirty as they can possibly stand it". I have been following this advice for a while.