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Gratitude: A celebratory benefit for the PKD Foundation

Meyeon Park, M.D.Meyeon Park, M.D.

Physician Honoree

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Meyeon Park, M.D., MAS, first decided to specialize in treating polycystic kidney disease (PKD) patients because she had a research interest in cardiovascular disease associated with kidney disease, a condition that affects many PKD patients. Before her clinic at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) was established, PKD had received very little focused attention in the San Francisco area and medical community. With the need and the opportunity available, Dr. Park’s research background combined with her early-career energy, interest and passion made her a perfect fit to spearhead the effort to focus on PKD at the UCSF center.

Her specialization in PKD allows Dr. Park to develop strong relationships with patients in a nephrology setting, which she really enjoys. “As soon as I started to take care of more and more PKD patients, I got so drawn into the community, and I feel that I am a part of it in a way that is so special,” she says. “I’ve been very much welcomed into this community, and I want to keep working more and more to help these patients.”

Her close relationship with patients led Dr. Park to her involvement with the PKD Foundation. “It’s a small community out here, so some of my patients who are active in the Foundation reached out to me about it,” she says. Dr. Park has attended the past few San Francisco Walks for PKD, and she considers the Foundation to be one of the great resources she can point patients to when they are seeking more information for themselves and their families.

Dr. Park’s clinic sees about one hundred PKD patients on average. Most of them are from the San Francisco area or northern California, but some will come from very far away. Dr. Park says one of the challenges of caring for PKD patients is to see their struggle with both knowing so much about how the disease can affect family members, but still be uncertain about how it will affect them. “I think that’s the hardest part, seeing it firsthand in a loved one and not being able to predict the future of their own experience—that can lead to a lot of anxiety,” she says.

Dr. Park works with her patients on lifestyle changes that can affect the course of the disease. “I think one way we can help patients is to recognize and alleviate their anxiety. It’s also important to remind people that they are not alone in this,” she says. She also emphasizes the importance of diet and general wellness, especially when it comes to exercise and pain relief. “PKD patients are extremely motivated. They try to do everything they can to take charge of their health, and the challenging part is that we don’t have a complete cure to offer them.”

Dr. Park is particularly interested in studying different ways that diet can help PKD patients. She was recently funded to do a pilot study to evaluate whether PKD patients are at higher risk of diabetes, and whether different calorie reduction approaches may help to both reduce the risk of diabetes and with slowing cyst growth. The project is currently in the preparation phase, and she looks forward to beginning the study in the next few months.

Dr. Park is honored that she will be recognized at Gratitude. “I can’t believe it—I think it’s extremely generous,” she says. “I am so thankful for this tremendous honor, mostly because I want to be able to do whatever I can for my patients. If this recognition by the PKD Foundation enhances our Center’s reputation, I hope that I can do more for patients as a result. This is such a special community to be part of, I just want to do my best to help as many people as I can.”