About Us

Coordinating institution

The Kidney Research Institute, together with the University of Washington as the Clinical and Data Coordinating Center, is conducting the ASCEND trial.

The Kidney Research Institute, located in Seattle, Wash., is a collaboration between Northwest Kidney Centers and UW Medicine focused on early detection, prevention and treatment of kidney disease and its complications. Our mission is to conduct research that can improve the lives of those with kidney disease. Our vision is for every eligible patient with kidney disease to be informed about, participate in, and benefit from our research.

Funding for the trial

The ASCEND trial is funded by a grant from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and Dialysis Clinic, Inc.

ASCEND study team

Researchers from our three study sites in Seattle, Dallas and Albuquerque work with patients in the trial, analyze data and ensure the trial is running smoothly and efficiently.

University of Washington

Rajnish Mehrotra, principal investigator
Nancy Grote
Patrick Heagerty
Bessie Young
Amelia Dubovsky

University of New Mexico

Mark Unruh, site principal investigator
Davin Quinn

University of Texas, Southwestern

Susan Hedayati, co-principal investigator and site principal investigator
Madhukar Trivedi

State University of New York, Brooklyn

Daniel Cukor, co-principal investigator

Emory University

Nancy Kutner

George Washington University

Scott Cohen


Paul Kimmel

University of Pennsylvania

Laura Dember

University of Pittsburgh

Steve Weisbord

University of Utah

Tom Greene

Patient Council

We have established Patient and Stakeholder Councils that guide us in the design and implementation of the study. The Patient council incorporates the ‘patient voice’ and ensures that our study addresses issues that are meaningful to our hemodialysis patients. Our nationally representative Patient Council is chaired by Lori Hartwell who is also the founder and President of Renal Support Network.

Lori Hartwell (chair)

Lori has had kidney disease since 1968. Having survived 40-plus surgeries and 13 years of dialysis and now living with her fourth kidney transplant, Lori founded the patient-led Renal Support Network in 1993 to instill “health, happiness, and hope” into the lives of fellow patients. She has created many programs to help her peers. She is the author of Chronically Happy - Joyful Living in Spite of Chronic Illness, an inspirational guidebook for handling lifestyle and numerous other non-medical issues that come up in the course of chronic disease.

Richard Blaine

Richard’s kidney condition, which was properly diagnosed in his early 20s, probably started from a bladder infection that progressed to the kidneys when he was very young. This was followed some years later by two kidney stones that had to be “crushed” for removal. In his 40s, Richard was diagnosed with high blood pressure. In 2002, his nephrologist told him that he had about a year before he would need dialysis or a transplant and in late 2003 he started peritoneal dialysis. He did PD for 22 months before being transplanted on Aug. 9, 2006. Since then, Richard has been doing very well. Shortly after starting dialysis, he and his wife started a support group, Living Well with Kidney Disease, in Las Vegas.

Heather Powell

Heather was diagnosed with kidney failure at 8 years old. She was started on hemodialysis and after a year switched to peritoneal which she learned to do herself. Traversing the issues of kidney failure; Heather graduated from high school, college and completed a masters in social work as she knew she wanted to help others who were also on this journey of living with a chronic illness. Heather was doing home hemodialysis when she was blessed with her 2nd transplant, a kidney from her mom. Heather just celebrated 10 years with this kidney. She works as a medical social worker and is active in the kidney community advocating for patients everywhere.

Monica Alfonzo

Monica Alfonzo was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease in 2009 and started Peritoneal Dialysis in September 2011. Monica received a kidney transplant on July 15, 2014. While on dialysis, she had a supportive encounter with the Social Worker at her local kidney center in Seattle, WA and decided to go back to school in order to advocate for dialysis and transplant patients. She is currently attending Seattle Central College to obtain her degree in Social and Human Services and plans to attend the University of Washington for her Master’s degree in Social Work.

Glenda Roberts

For 70% of her life, Glenda V. Roberts has lived with kidney disease. Before going on dialysis, for 40 years she managed the disease’s progression using diet and exercise. Since her transplant, she’s completed seven half marathons and is active in the community. She was recognized by NKC “for her continuing leadership, steadfast support and generous volunteerism.' Glenda's definition of success is to develop great solutions to challenging issues. She co-founded OUI Works to educate the community about organ donation and kidney disease. She went to Washington DC to petition the Washington Congressional representatives' support for NIDDK/NIH funding, ESRD Medicare budget protection, appropriate quality metrics for in-center-bedridden dialysis patients and expanding immunosuppression drug benefits for transplant recipients. Serving on KRI PACs lets her share the community’s perspective on the solutions being evaluated by KRI.

Nancy Spaeth

Nancy was diagnosed with kidney disease in 1959. She started dialysis in 1966 after being chosen by committee in Seattle. She ran in-center, overnight at Eklind Hall until she learned to do her dialysis overnight, at home in 1968. She has done, 4 hour runs and peritoneal dialysis, as well. She has had four t ransplants, the last for almost sixteen years. She has two children born in the 1970s with the fist transplant, given to her by her brother. She has a degree in education and nursing and continues to work as a substitute teacher and nurse in her local school district. She serves on the Foundation Board, as well as the Quality and Safety Committee at NW Kidney Centers. She also serves on the NW Renal Network Patient Advisory Council, Committee member for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute ( PCORI ) with the Kidney Research institute and the ESRD Learning and Action Network. She hopes to write her story, 'A Good Life with Kidney Disease'.

Not pictured: Diana Headlee, Linda Oakford, and Cal Sturdivant.

Stakeholder Council

The Stakeholder Council for the ASCEND Study is comprised of nine organizations as its members, including partnerships with seven dialysis providers that operate dialysis facilities in 50 states and cumulatively provide care to 80% of hemodialysis patients in the country. This extensive engagement has allowed us to consider and develop plans to overcome potential barriers to the conduct of the study.

The council includes representatives from the following organizations:

Data Safety and Monitoring Board