Becoming a nephrologist was not on the initial list of specialty options for Dr. James Lan as he progressed through his medical training at UBC. But along the way he discovered a few things that made him reconsider.
"I didn't have a good appreciation of the complexity of kidney disease early in my medical training," says the Vancouver-based transplant nephrologist. "Like most medical residents, I learned through clinical practice the major impact of kidneys on virtually every system in your body."
Further stirring his interest, through the influence of BC Renal Agency executive director Dr. Adeera Levin, James learned about the wide range of research opportunities in nephrology. And that was it. Well, almost. After finishing his nephrology training at UBC, James chose to take a further two years of training in immunogenetics at UCLA in Los Angeles. He is now one of just a handful of nephrologists in Canada with cross training in immunology.
James started his clinical practice in Vancouver four years ago. He says he gets satisfaction from seeing patients "get their lives back" with the help of an organ transplant after living through the difficulties caused by kidney disease.
As a researcher, his special interest is in how to personalize immunosuppression for the transplant patients who don't respond well to the standard therapeutic approach.
"My goal is to find customized options for these patients, and to reduce the burden of the drugs they must take," says James. As he explains, "increased medication leads to increased toxicity."
Born in Taiwan, James came to Canada with his family when he was 11 and grew up in Vancouver. His wife is an endocrinologist – they met during residency at UBC. They have a three-year-old son and a second child due in January.
James was named to the 2018 UBC School of Medicine honour roll for clinical teaching excellence and is co-chair of BC Kidney Days 2018.