Electron Microscope Enhances Patient Care and Clinical Research Opportunities in Kidney Disease

A new state-of-the-art instrument and a fellowship-trained nephropathologist in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine are enhancing education, research, and care for kidney patients. The department recently purchased a low-voltage electron microscope (EM) – the only one of its kind in the region – to help render definitive on-site diagnoses on kidney biopsies. The purchase was made possible through a philanthropic gift made by the Higgins family in celebration of Bob Higgins. Most of Bob’s family members have or had polycystic kidney disease, and some, including his sister and niece, received extensive treatment at Albany Medical Center.

Sandra J. Shin, MD, chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, said the new microscope enables nephropathologists to reach a definitive diagnosis on kidney biopsies. “It’s absolutely critical to confirm a kidney patient’s diagnosis and begin treatment as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Shin. Vital to this process, she added, was hiring Andrea Lightle, MD, the region’s only fellowship-trained nephropathologist. She received her fellowship training at University of North Carolina, widely known as one if not the best fellowship programs of its kind in the U.S.

In addition to being able to initiate treatment more rapidly, Loay Salman, MD, vice chair of Medicine for Operations and division chief of Nephrology and Hypertension, said it enhances educational research opportunities. “The addition of the microscope creates educational opportunities for faculty and fellows to share the images with their peers at conferences, and puts us on the map in terms of conducting research and participating in national and international clinical trials where Albany Medical Center patients may have access to therapies years ahead of those elsewhere,” Dr. Salman said.

Encouraged by the many enhancements to our missions, Dr. Shin envisions providing this full diagnostic service for kidney patients to Albany Med Health System’s campuses at Columbia Memorial Health, Glens Falls Hospital, and Saratoga Hospital.

”This donation is an example of how philanthropy can not only make a big difference in patients’ lives, but also enable the health system to be more forward thinking and self-sufficient,” she said.