Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics awarded Professor Tej Mattoo, Chief Editor of International Journal of Nephrology, the prestigious 2023 Henry L. Barnett Award for lifetime achievement in the field of pediatric nephrology.
We interviewed Prof. Mattoo to discuss his career so far, his advice for early-career researchers and prospective authors and editors, and his thoughts on the future of both the field and IJN. He also curated a selection of articles on the topic of nephrology, from the latest research on transplantation to new kidney disease biomarkers and treatments.
Congratulations on your award! – can you tell us more about your background in nephrology?
I started out with my M.B., B.S and MD (Pediatrics) from the University of Kashmir, India, and DCH and MRCP from the Royal College of Physicians, London, UK. I then trained in Pediatric Nephrology at Guy’s Hospital, London, UK and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, NY, USA. Before settling down in the U.S., I was the founding Head of the first Pediatric Nephrology program in Saudi Arabia (1987).
I’m currently Professor of Pediatrics (Nephrology) and Vice Chair of the Department of Pediatrics, and Professor of Urology, at the Wayne State University School of Medicine.
I am also a member of the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the Pediatric Nephrology Research Consortium of North America, Editor-In-Chief of the Saudi Journal of Kidney Disease and Transplantation, Section Editor (Nephrology) of UpToDate, and, of course, Chief Editor of the International Journal of Nephrology.
What advice would you give an early career researcher beginning their career in academia?
An academic career is very fulfilling, there’s no doubt about that, but there are no shortcuts, one has to make an effort and work hard, and enjoy it. It can be particularly hard for clinicians because of patient care commitments, but I do know many busy clinicians across the world who find time to do both.
So, my advice to a beginner is: stick with it, don't give up. Once you get going, it creates its own traction, and ultimately, it's worth it.
I’d also say that as clinicians, we have an obligation to share our observations that could help others in enhancing patient care, and the best way to do that is by publishing.
What advice would you give to someone seeking to become an Editorial Board Member of International Journal of Nephrology?
Experience in writing and reviewing manuscripts is really helpful. Anyone who wants to be on the editorial board has to make sure that they are doing enough reviews, because that's how we get to learn about their clinical expertise and editorial skills.
Being an editor does mean a time commitment – you need to sit down and carefully consider every manuscript you work on. Authors put in an enormous amount of effort to prepare a manuscript, so we as editors owe it to them to make sure that we give it due attention before we make a decision.
However, it is a great scholarly activity. Besides personal satisfaction, such an activity is viewed favorably by the institutions in the US, and perhaps elsewhere too, for faculty promotion and tenure. Also, you learn quite a bit from the incoming manuscripts – it’s a great way to keep your finger on the medical research pulse.
What is your top tip for authors wishing to submit to the journal?
First, I want to tell them that we want your manuscripts and are keen to publish them. The intention is to accept it, but it has to meet certain standards.
Preparing your manuscript in accordance with the journal requirements is a great start. Running it by colleagues, seniors in your program, or sometimes even by friends who can check content, language and other elements, is also immensely helpful and advances the quality of the manuscript significantly.
Although good research is less likely to be rejected solely for language reasons, you’ve still got to make sure that the reader understands what you are communicating.
Finally, a good abstract is a great way to catch any reader’s attention, including the editor’s, because this is the first thing that they look at. Sometimes you can read the whole abstract of an article and still not know what the study is about, which is not helpful.
What are the benefits of the journal being Open Access?
The sole purpose of any publication is to reach as many readers as possible, and with Open Access, anyone anywhere in the world can be a reader – it’s a huge boost for accessibility and visibility as well. Open Access is of particular importance in resource-poor countries, but it’s helpful here in the US too. Sometimes, I have issues accessing my own published work! Publishing Open Access generates more citations for the article, promotes international research networking, and is good for patient care as well.
What are the hottest emerging topics in nephrology right now?
There are a lot of big developments going on in the field of nephrology right now, such as new biomarkers for early diagnosis of diseases and clinical outcomes, and kidney regeneration and tissue engineering.
One hot topic which has recently seen progress is xeno-transplantation, i.e., the possibility of harvesting kidneys from pigs for human transplantation, although we are not there yet.
The Covid-19 pandemic also helped jump-start the utilization of telemedicine and remote monitoring, which is something new for both adult and pediatric nephrology, as well as many other specialties. Similarly, we’ve seen advances made in genomic medicine; it's becoming increasingly common to do genetic testing for various diseases, and that's really helping with precision medicine.
There are also huge advances occurring in traditional areas, such as renal replacement therapy, acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease, and hypertension, which is a problem all over the world because of increasing risk factors at all ages, including children and young adults.
The subject of my own research interest, vesicoureteral reflux, has generated so much new knowledge; when I worked at Guy’s, the research could have filled a few pages, but it’s now enough for a whole book.
Where do you see International Journal of Nephrology in the future?
I strongly believe that there's a need for more high-quality nephrology journals, and I think IJN has the potential to become one of the main journals in the field.
I also believe that we need to publish more research articles from non-English speaking countries. I have a varied background – from India, training in England, having spent time in Saudi Arabia, and now finally in the USA – and have seen how some good research doesn’t get published due to issues with the language or how it’s presented. We need a better understanding of kidney problems and the available resources all over the world, so that we can figure out how best to deliver high-quality, cost-effective health care internationally.
This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). Illustration adapted from Adobe Stock by David Jury.