The Kidney Foundation of Canada

2012 KFOC Medal for Research Excellence

Dr. William Clark

“Dr. Clark is frequently consulted to develop protocols for identification, management and follow-up of persons exposed to contaminated water. The body of literature created from the Walkerton Health Study will provide ongoing evidence of the need for screening to identify the health risks after such an outbreak and ways to prevent severe impacts through early treatment.”
    - Dr. Louise Moist, Professor of Medicine at the Schulich School of Medicine University of Western Ontario

Dr. William Clark, the lead investigator of Canada’s landmark Walkerton Health Study, was  awarded the 2012 Kidney Foundation of Canada Medal for Research Excellence.

Distinguished in many areas of medicine and nephrology, Dr. Clark has gained international recognition for his observational studies, randomized clinical trials and treatment of kidney patients. Most recently, he has gained world-wide attention for his work examining the increased risks of initiating dialysis treatment early.

Dr. Clark’s career as a clinician-scientist spans over three decades. He has focused on studies aimed at preventing or slowing progressive kidney disease. His work has explored many issues, including the role of platelets in kidney injury resulting from diseases of the immune system such as lupus nephritis or glomerulonephritis. He also studied the application of plasma (blood) exchange and dialysis to improve the treatment and health of people suffering from kidney injury. 

Platelets, the small cells found in blood which are responsible for clotting, proved of major interest to Dr. Clark starting in the early ‘70s. He examined their effect on tissue damage in glomerulonephritis and lupus nephritis, illnesses which can lead to kidney failure. Based on his findings in animal models, he conducted several randomized control trials that involved nutritional interventions (flax seed and fish oil) and plasma (blood) exchange therapy. These studies also led to his exploration of plasma exchange therapy in thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), a platelet disorder of the blood-coagulation system that can damage organs such as the kidneys and was uniformly fatal prior to plasma exchange therapy.

In May 2000, the outbreak of gastroenteritis resulting from E. coli water contamination, in Walkerton, Ontario, shocked the community. During this critical period, Dr. Clark applied his clinical expertise, extensive track-record in research, and natural skill in collaborating with diverse groups to create a ground-breaking union between an academic research institution and the community who experienced a spike in mortality and morbidity. Under Dr. Clark’s compassionate leadership a sound body of research knowledge was developed, which revealed the long-term adverse effects to health after exposure to contaminated water. His work and commitment also translated into direct patient care. He led a seven-year, community-based clinic in the town, assuring all patient health issues were documented with appropriate medical follow-up and attention. 

Currently, Dr. Clark is initiating a randomized control trial that will assess the role of increased water intake on slowing the progression of the loss of kidney function in patients suffering from chronic kidney disease. It is based on his 7 year longitudinal study in Walkerton. He is Co-chair of the Canadian Society of Nephrology’s guidelines committee on early initiation of dialysis and of the Research Council of The Kidney Foundation of Canada.

Top Renal Game Changer
In 2010, Dr. Clark received two Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) awards to continue his long-standing studies in: 1) plasma exchange in rapidly progressive kidney disease; and 2) long-term cardiovascular consequences of the Walkerton water contamination. The significance of his research is demonstrated by his publication in high-impact journals, including the Annals of Internal Medicine. He also published two papers in 2011 which were rated as the “Top 2011 Game Changer in Nephrology” (Medscape Nephrology WebMD Professional).

Recently, Dr. Clark was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal for his charitable work, which notably includes initiating and managing two different major fundraisers as well as being Honorary Cabinet Member (Ontario) of The Kidney Foundation’s New Challenge Campaign.

Professional Affiliations
Dr. William Clark is a Professor of Medicine at Western University, a Scientist at the Lawson Health Research Institute, a Clinician Scientist in the Program of Experimental Medicine at Western University, and a Director of Apheresis and Consulting Nephrologist at the London Health Sciences Centre. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American Society of Nephrology, and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.