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UMMS To Drop Race Based Algorithm That Harms African Americans, Officials Say

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- It was an eye-opening experience for Uchenna Ndubsisi when she filled out her forms for a diagnostic test on her kidneys for Lupus one she says left her disappointed.

"We're supposed to do our research, we're supposed to use evidence-based practice and what we're using is, 'eh they have more muscle mass, they're black' and it makes me feel very unfortunate," said Ndubisi.

Dr. Roderick King with UMMS calls this method for identifying people with kidney disease "Glomerular Filtration Rate or GFR" an outdated system.

"Where this really comes from is historically race was considered a factor in clinical care," said Dr. Roderick King, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion officer, UMMS.

"There are a number of different factors we use to assess kidney function," said Dr. King. " [but to] unfortunately for Black Americans, there was an adjustment to that assessment, and that adjustment was inappropriately linked to race.

Dr. King says because the algorithm determined many Black patients had better kidney health, doctors often missed early-onset kidney disease and patients were less likely to receive kidney transplants.

But data shows Black Americans are three times more likely than white Americans to have kidney failure.

"We're hoping that UMMS will be leading the way nationally to remove these clinical barriers," said Dr. King.

That's why the University of Maryland Medical System and the University of Maryland School of Medicine is working to stop using the methodology.

"We are changing the way we are caring for patients. It will, particularly it will allow a more accurate measure for kidney function assessments for Black Americans," Dr. King said.

Dr. King says the change will benefit thousands of Black Americans in the region who could be treated earlier for kidney disease.  "We're just at the beginning of this conversation," he said.

For patients like Ndsubisi who are undergoing dialysis treatment and on the kidney transplant waitlist, she says she's pleased to learn about the historic move.

"Now these patients are going to get the right care that they need," Ndubisi added.

Dr. King says this move will be launched by mid-January within the University of Maryland Medical System.

It will be the first major hospital system in the region to do so and he hopes of others will follow in its footsteps.


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