Dr. Elizabeth Brant’s academic career started as a recipient of the prestigious Morehead Scholarship at the University of North Carolina as a student of music. Her career path later switched to medicine with the explicit goal of improving the care of patients with vasculitis. She excelled in her training as a student, resident and fellow in nephrology, gaining several awards. In addition to her rich background in both art and science, she brings to the Vasculitis Foundation fellowship unparalleled enthusiasm, energy, dedication, and warmth. Her research project focuses on understanding the causes and mechanisms of a common and dangerous complication of vasculitis, namely abnormal venous blot clots (“venous thromboembolic events” or VTE). Although the increased risk of VTE among patients with vasculitis is well recognized, the causes and mechanisms are still poorly understood. Dr Brant’s work will explore the clinical risk factors of VTE, and test the hypothesis that ANCA antibodies themselves initiate a molecular and cellular cascade that promotes the formation of venous blood clots.
~ Patrick Nachman, MD, professor of medicine, UNC Kidney Center, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Introducing Dr. Elizabeth Brant
For new VF Fellow Elizabeth Brant, the things that are most challenging about her work also are the ones that can be the most rewarding.
“What’s most important to me is helping people at any given stage of treatment or care,” she explains. “Of course, it’s incredibly gratifying to treat people and see them recover, but not everyone is so fortunate. Sometimes I’m helping them come to terms with kidney failure and impending dialysis or transplantation. Other times I’m helping them with end-of-life decisions. It can all be rewarding when you feel that you may have helped someone be less afraid about major life transitions or helped them or their families attain some degree of peace about the inevitable end of life.”
Still, it is challenging to talk to patients about a disease even the doctors know so little about. Brant says her goal is to “arm myself with as much information as possible and express it in a way that I would want to hear it.”
The VF Fellowship allows Brant to focus her research on venous thromboembolism (VTE), a condition that studies show is common in ANCA vasculitis and tends to occur around the times of active disease. About 10 percent of ANCA patients develop VTE; about half of all patients (not just those with vasculitis) with VTE develop pulmonary embolism, a life-threatening complication. Her research will test a hypothesis about how VTE forms in patients with ANCA vasculitis.
“What I think is particularly important is the growing understanding of the mechanism of these diseases,” she explains. “As is so often the case, figuring out the basic mechanisms will help us understand other diseases. And, of course, the more we know, the more avenues of treatment we can pursue. Hopefully this research will help us identify those at greatest risk of this complication and guide us toward intervention.”
Click here to learn more about the Fellowship Program.