Advisory Council

Sandra Amaral, M.D., M.H.S.

Dr. Sandra Amaral is the Director of the Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She graduated from the Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University School of Medicine. She completed Pediatrics residency at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and a fellowship in Pediatric Nephrology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Harriet Lane Kidney Center. She also holds a Masters of Health Science degree in Biostatistics and Clinical Epidemiology from the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Amaral also serves as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Nephrology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a Senior Scholar in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania.  
Dr. Amaral’s clinical and research career is focused in kidney transplantation with particular interests in 1) reducing racial disparities in access to transplant for children and adults and 2) improving the transition of adolescents and young adults from the pediatric to adult health care settings, including finding ways to overcome barriers to adolescent medication nonadherence. She has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters related to these topics. She runs an adolescent-focused kidney transplant transition clinic at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to help patients develop their healthcare self-management skills. 
Dr. Amaral is also a strong public health advocate. In addition to her role on the Advisory Board of the Dialysis Patient Citizens, she currently serves on the Patient Affairs Committee of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) as well as on the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology Public Policy Committee, the American Society of Nephrology Quality Metrics Task Force Committee and the American Society of Transplantation Pediatric Community of Practice Executive Committee.

Akhtar Ashfaq, M.D.

Dr. Ashfaq is an Internist and Nephrologist by training and is board certified in both internal medicine and nephrology. After finishing medical school, Dr. Ashfaq did his internal medicine internship and Residency at Good Samaritan Hospital, University Of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio where he was also a chief resident. He then joined North Shore University Hospital, Cornell University School Of Medicine for fellowship in Nephrology. After completing fellowship, he joined a private practice in Lewistown, Pennsylvania for a short time. In 1997, Dr. Ashfaq was appointed on the faculty of North Shore University Hospital and then on the faculty of NS-LIJ  Health system, Albert Einstein College Of Medicine. During this time he served as associate program director of nephrology fellowship program, Director of inpatient services, Director of Clinical trials. In 2005, Dr. Ashfaq was appointed as Associate Chief Division of Nephrology and he stayed on this position until April of 2009 when he left academia and joined Amgen Inc. as Clinical Research Medical Director where he leads North American Medical team for Epogen. In addition, he is medical lead for policy, strategy and advocacy for nephrology franchise. He also represents Amgen on Kidney care partners, a coalition of several stakeholders, serving nephrology community.
During his career, Dr. Ashfaq has published in Major Nephrology Journals, has contributed to Internal Medicine and Nephrology text books, he has been a reviewer for most of the journals and also served as a reviewer of NephSAP. He has been on the editorial board of Journal of Nephrology. He has received many teaching awards. He was also the founder of Long Island chapter of polycystic kidney disease foundation.
His major area of interest is patient awareness and education and improving the life of patients with chronic kidney disease.

Nisha Bhatt, M.D.

Nisha Bhatt, M.D. is the medical leader for the U.S. nephrology franchise at Amgen. She completed her nephrology training at Beth Israel Deaconess University and entered clinical practice in South Florida. She joined Amgen in 2016 and has been actively involved in both clinical development and medical affairs related to therapies for the management of anemia and secondary hyperparathyroidism in patients with CKD. Currently, Dr. Bhatt is the leader for nephrology medical interactions with the health care community.

Kerri Cavanaugh, M.D., M.H.S.

Dr. Kerri Cavanaugh specializes in the care of patients with chronic kidney disease as a result of any cause and have specific expertise in caring for patients with kidney failure. This includes treating kidney failure with the best medical therapy, which may include options such as dialysis. She is passionate about delivering kidney disease care that fits with a patient’s and their family’s goals. This includes working with the other members of our kidney care team, nurses, dietitians and social workers as well as coordinating with the Vanderbilt palliative care providers to offer treatment in line with these goals. 
Her patient-oriented research focuses on identifying ways to improve doctors’ and other health providers’ communication with patients and their families. This includes developing new written and video materials to enhance the way we talk about kidney health, its evaluation and its treatments. She has led a team that has developed surveys that evaluate the kidney knowledge and self-efficacy related to care of kidney disease, receiving funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Kidney Foundation and the American Society of Nephrology to support this research. These contributions have been highlighted in The New York Times.
At Vanderbilt, Dr. Cavanaugh is the Medical Director of the Vanderbilt Dialysis Clinic-Campus and also serve as a research mentor to nephrology fellowship trainees.

Debbie Cote, M.S.N., R.N., C.N.N., N.E.-B.C.

Debbie Cote has been a nephrology nurse for 31 years; she currently works for the University of Virginia Health System as the Administrator for the Dialysis Program. She oversees 9, soon to be 11 chronic facilities, 4 home programs and 3 acute programs in Central Virginia. She actively volunteers her time for professional organizations. She is currently the President of NRAA, and a member of the Mid-Atlantic Renal Coalition’s Board of Directors. She is a Past President of the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission and still actively participates in the development of certification exams.

Steve Curtiss, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Steven Curtiss, M.D., F.A.C.S.,  is a board certified General and Vascular surgeon and Medical Director at Vein Treatment and Access Care of Highland Park Surgical Associates. Dr. Curtiss completed his residency and vascular fellowship at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York and is a graduate of Albany Medical College. He has more than 18 years of experience in the surgical and endovasculator treatment of dialysis access patients. 

Elizabeth Jones M.S.W., L.C.S.W.

Elizabeth is a nephrology social worker at Sterling dialysis in Sterling, Virginia. She has been a renal social worker since 1991. Elizabeth has worked in both hospital and outpatient settings with endocrine, dialysis, and transplant patients. She is also a divisional lead social worker for DaVita in the Washington DC, Northern Virginia and Maryland area. Elizabeth has volunteered with DPC and NKF. Her journey with kidney disease has been both professional and profoundly personal. She was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 1991 due to primary membranous glomerulopathy. Elizabeth feels passionate about education and patient empowerment. 

Rajnish Mehrotra, M.D.

Rajnish Mehrotra, M.D., is Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington and is section head of Nephrology at the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Previously, Dr. Mehrotra served as the Associate Chief for the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, CA.  He is a leading expert in the care of patients undergoing maintenance dialysis for the treatment of end-stage renal disease with special interest in peritoneal dialysis. He has published over 200 articles and/or book chapters and his work has been supported by grants from, among others, the National Institutes of Health and Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute. He was awarded the John Maher Award by the International Society for Peritoneal Dialysis in 2006 and has served as the Chair of the Dialysis Advisory Group of the American Society of Nephrology (2009-’15).

He is currently the Treasurer of the International Society for Peritoneal Dialysis since 2014 and the President of the North American Chapter of the International Society for Peritoneal Dialysis. He is also the Associate Editor for the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. He has served as an Associate Editor of Peritoneal Dialysis International and NephSAP, and section editor for Clinical Nephrology. He is currently a member of the editorial board for the Kidney International, American Journal of Kidney Diseases, Clinical Journal of American Society of Nephrology, and Journal of Renal Nutrition. He has served as Chair of the Education Committee and Membership Committee of the International Society for Peritoneal Dialysis and a member of the Council of the Society in the past.

Dr. Mehrotra completed his medical schooling at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India, underwent residency training at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, and Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and fellowship training at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He obtained a Masters of Science degree in Clinical Research at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Cheryl Neal, M.D.

Cheryl Neal, MD, founded MIKE Program in 2003 to mentor young people toward healthier lives. Dr. Neal serves as the full-time volunteer, unpaid Executive Director of MIKE. Dr. Neal is a retired Portland-area internist, who trained in nephrology at Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. She is a graduate of the OHSU School of Medicine (formerly the University of Oregon School of Medicine). Inspired by the work and convictions of her late husband, Portland kidney specialist Mike Hartnett, MD, she oversees a grassroots effort to empower young people to advocate for and adopt healthier behaviors, especially in communities most susceptible to chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which lead to kidney failure.

Velma Scantlebury, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Velma P. Scantlebury, M.D., is the associate director of the Kidney Transplant Program at Christiana Care. She comes to Christiana Care from the University of South Alabama’s Regional Transplant Center, where she served as a professor of surgery, assistant dean for community education and director of transplantation. She has been recognized as one of the Best Doctors in America by
Dr. Scantlebury has served as a national spokesperson for Linkages to Life, an initiative to address the shortage of African-American organ donors. In her career, she has performed more than 1,000 kidney transplants. She became the nation’s first African-American female transplant surgeon in 1989.
Dr. Scantlebury earned her medical degree from Columbia University in New York City. She was an intern and resident in general surgery at Harlem Hospital Center in New York City. She completed her fellowship training in transplantation surgery at the University of Pittsburgh and then joined the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine as an assistant professor of surgery in 1989. She rose to the rank of associate professor prior to her appointment at the University of Southern Alabama in Mobile.
Dr. Scantlebury’s special interests include: researching the end results of donation and transplantation in African-Americans; increasing organ donation in the African-American community through education and awareness; increasing the incidence of living donor transplantation by education; and treating viral infections in kidneys.

Kathleen Smith, B.S., R.N., C.N.N.

Kathleen Smith is a registered nurse with degrees in both nursing and health care administration. She has been involved in government relations for thirty years, beginning as a volunteer for the American Nephrology Nurses’ Association (ANNA), then in her role as Director of Legislative Services for Nursing Economics, where she represented a number of nursing and allied health organizations, including ANNA, in Washington. She currently holds the position of Vice President for Government Affairs with Fresenius Medical Care North America. In addition, from 1993 through 2005 she was the Program Coordinator for the Nurse in Washington Internship (NIWI), sponsored by the Nursing Organizations Alliance. 
Ms. Smith has pursued graduate studies in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the School of Hygiene and Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, the School of Nursing, George Mason University, and Washington Adventist University. 
Kathleen has numerous publications and presentations to her credit and has been a contributing editor covering health care policy issues for Nursing Economic$, Pediatric Nursing, and MEDSURG Nursing.
She is a member of Sigma Theta Tau, the American Nurses Association and the American Nephrology Nurses’ Association. Ms. Smith is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses (1999), and the Ron Brady Memorial Award for Volunteer Leadership (2000) and the Outstanding Contribution Award (2005) from the American Nephrology Nurses’ Association (2000).
Prior to her career in public policy, Ms. Smith held a variety of clinical, administrative, and management positions, primarily in nephrology, transplantation, and critical care nursing. 

Barry Smith, M.D., Ph.D.

Barry H. Smith, MD, PhD is the President and CEO of The Rogosin Institute and Director of its Dreyfus Health Foundation division. He is Professor of Clinical Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College and Attending Physician at the NewYork-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center. He received his undergraduate education (BA) at Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the Class of 1965; his PhD in Biology/Neurobiology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1968; and his MD from Cornell University Medical College in 1972, with residency training at both New York Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital and five years at the National Institutes of Health as Deputy Chief of Surgical Neurology. 
Dr. Smith is involved in patient care and basic and clinical research in kidney disease, diabetes and cancer. He has worked for more than twenty years to promote problem-solving skills among health professionals and medical and nursing students (more than 65,000) in over 30 countries around the world. He is committed to improving health promotion and disease prevention efforts, as well as care for chronic and end-stage kidney disease patients in New York and beyond through the work of The Rogosin Institute. Dr. Smith is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society of Critical Care Medicine, the New York Academy of Science, Alpha Omega Alpha, Sigma Xi, the American Medical Association, American Society of Nephrology, National Renal Administrators Association, and the American Public Health Association, among others. He represents The Rogosin Institute at the Kidney Care Council, Kidney Care Partners and Kidney Health Initiative meetings. He serves on the boards of Baby land Family Services, Inc., Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, the Kornfeld Foundation and the New York City Rescue Mission. He is also Chair of the Board of Global Health Action, based in Atlanta. He is the author of more than 125 scientific and clinical papers, Co-Editor of Elsevier's Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, and an Editor of Problem Solving for Better Health: A Global Perspective.

Joan Thomas, M.P.A., C.E.M., A.B.C.P., M.E.P.

Joan Thomas is the Director of Emergency Management for the Kidney Community Emergency Response Program, developing and implementing national emergency management and business continuity initiatives and disaster coordination, that includes 18 ESRD Networks covering the United States and its territories under the direction of CMS. She is an adjunct professor at the Metropolitan College of New York, teaching graduate-level courses in emergency management and business continuity. Ms. Thomas earned an MPA in Emergency and Disaster Management and studied advanced security and anti-terrorism with the Israel Military Industries Academy. Ms. Thomas holds FEMA certifications as a Master Exercise Practitioner and Professional Continuity Practitioner. She is also a certified Business Continuity Planner (DRII) and Certified Emergency Manager (IAEM).