Pat Wilson is an Honorary Professor at University College, London (UCL) in the Department of Renal Medicine. She also chairs the PKD Charity Research Advisory Board and recently became a trustee of PKD Charity.
Here Pat tells us how she got involved in leading polycystic kidney disease research, and with PKD Charity:
“Growing up in leafy North London, I could never have imagined that I was destined to the spend the majority of my working life thinking about the biology of PKD. At that stage I was much more interested in musical theatre or playing tennis. But then, immediately after University I was lucky enough to get a position at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (the forerunner of Cancer Research UK) and study for my PhD in Cell Biology with the most inspiring mentor imaginable, Dr L. M. (Sammy) Franks. Everything I have learned about how and why to study the mechanisms of disease was due to his scholarship, humanity, insight and most importantly an exquisitely dry sense of humour.
I first heard about PKD and its devastating effects on families when I had been recruited by Dr Robert Schrier to set up my first independent laboratory in the Department of Nephrology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Centre. Thanks to the pioneering clinical research of a wonderful colleague, Patti Gabow, I became fascinated with both the disease mechanisms and the fortitude of the patients and their families. Naively, I thought it should be straightforward after developing PKD cell lines to identify critical changes that could then be translated into therapeutic outcomes. Although a great deal of progress has been made and PKD research is widespread across the world, there is still a long way to go.
On my return to England to UCL in 2010, after several years of PKD research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, I was delighted to build on my association with Tess Harris and the PKD Charity. From advising on speakers at the UK/International PKD conference; to giving talks at patient information days; to chairing the PKD Charity Research Advisory Board and most recently becoming a trustee, it continues to be an honour to give a little back to the PKD community from whom I have learned and gained so much.
On a deeply personal family note, I have to express (at last!) my deep gratitude to my 2 daughters who cheerily would give up a weekend trip to the Colorado mountains in exchange for a trip to the lab if a PKD kidney arrived, as often happened. I am very proud of our 3 generations of support for the PKD Charity, exemplified by Rosie who started early at the age of 4 by supporting her mother to raise funds by completing the Lyke Wake Walk and more recently at 14 years of age, as a helper at a PKD Patient Information day in Cambridge.”
Thank you so, so much to the incredibly inspirational Pat, her esteemed colleagues, and her wonderful family for their amazing support. It is an honour to share Pat’s story, and to have a trustee like her on the PKD Charity board. Pat is a pioneer of PKD research and we are proud to share her story as part of our #PKDAwareness Month ‘PKD Voices’ series.