Extraordinary Gift Names Division of Nephrology and Hypertension

Members of the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension in the Department of Medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine gathered together recently to recognize longtime supporters whose generosity promises to transform the treatment of kidney disease.

Peggy and Harold Katz recently committed $10 million to ensure long-term progress in research, education, and clinical achievements in the division, which has been named The Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension in their honor and with approval by the Executive Committee of the University’s Board of Trustees.

“This gift will help us advance to the forefront of clinical and experimental innovation,” said Roy E. Weiss, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Medicine and the Kathleen and Stanley Glaser Distinguished Chair in Medicine.

Anticipated initiatives include the creation of an interdisciplinary Renal Disease Center to translate discovery research into patient care, research into rare diseases such as adult polycystic kidney diseases (ADPKD), further emphasis on drug discovery, and a push to expand interest in nephrology among undergraduate students and medical students.

“We are very grateful to Peggy and Harold Katz for their extraordinary generosity,” said Laurence B. Gardner, M.D., MACP, interim dean of the Miller School of Medicine. “Their support will enable the division to grow into one of the nation’s premier programs by staying at the leading edge of research, clinical care, and education.”

The gift will create two professorships, one in ADPKD and the other in cardio-metabolic disease.

It also includes the establishment of the “David Roth, M.D., Endowed Chair in Transplant Nephrology,” which creates a named legacy for the former chief of the division, who is a 33-year member of the UM faculty.

“It is a remarkable honor and I am very humbled by it,” said Roth, William Way Anderson Professor of Nephrology and director of clinical services. “I have dedicated my life to teaching and research in an academic setting. To have this type of recognition from a grateful patient like Peggy Katz is a real honor because it exemplifies what I’ve tried to accomplish.”

Katz has been active in promoting new treatments and cures for kidney disease after seeking treatment for polycystic kidney disease at the Miller School in 2000, and receiving a transplant three years later.

“For many years, I have had the opportunity to witness how Dr. Roth changed the lives of so many people, through both mentoring and patient care,” said Katz. “He is an excellent steward of the division, and it is time he was recognized.”

Over the past decade, the Katz family has made other generous contributions that have led to the growth of the division’s scientific program and investigators.

They helped establish The Peggy and Harold Katz Family Drug Discovery Center, which conducts groundbreaking research to improve the lives of patients with kidney disease.

The center is led by Director Alessia Fornoni, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of medicine who is also the Peggy and Harold Katz Family Chair, and the newly named chief of The Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension.

Fornoni’s research, which has been NIH-funded for the past 10 years, focuses on podocytes and mechanisms of proteinuria, lipid biology, and insulin signaling, drug development, and target identification. Her clinical interests are in the area of diabetic nephropathy and of rare glomerular disorders, such as focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis, and Alport syndrome.

As a mentor, Fornoni has trained more than 20 pre- and postdoctoral research fellows, several of whom have gone on to faculty or academic/research positions. She has published more than 85 original articles and is an internationally known lecturer.

As chief of the division, Fornoni is committed to stimulating the growth of clinical programs that combine a multidisciplinary approach. She attributes her success to the generosity and vision of the Katz family.

“I am so thankful for the dedication of the Katz family,” said Fornoni. “Their latest gift provides the vision for building a division that brings clinicians, scientists, families, patients, industry, and government leaders together with a commitment to finding a cure for kidney disease.”

Through the gift, the division becomes the first in the Department of Medicine to be named.

“It is an incredible thing to see how a family can have such a transformative impact toward creating a thriving center,” said Oliver Lenz, M.D., M.B.A., former interim chief of the division, medical director of the Jackson Memorial Hospital Nephrology Clinics, and professor of clinical medicine.

Peggy Katz served on the board of the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Later, she founded the Katz Family Foundation with her husband, entrepreneur Harold Katz.

“We feel like this division, and the Katz Center, are in a position to take off and be a center of excellence worldwide,” Katz said. “We are thrilled and look forward to watching all the parts come together and thrive. For my husband and me, this is a legacy. It is something that will last in perpetuity, something that will be there forever. I hope that it will inspire others to give, too.”

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