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Vital Signs

Clinical Observation

In this section, we highlight the human side of clinical academic medicine, putting a few questions to a physician at DMS-DHMC.

Martha Graber, M.B.
Associate Professor of Medicine (Nephrology)

Graber, who holds the British equivalent of the M.D., cares for patients with a wide range of kidney conditions. She also studies T-cell signal transduction and the role of bacterial biofilms in catheter infections. She has been at DMS since 1999.

How did you become interested in nephrology?
I started out as a scientist in cellular pharmacology and decided to study medicine as a way forward in science. But pretty quickly I became completely hooked on hearing patients' stories in their own voices and the process of puzzling out diagnoses. I started on the renal unit atGuy's Hospital in London in my third year as a resident and knew very quickly that nephrology was what I wanted to do as a career. I have never regretted that decision. Nephrology combines the logical puzzle aspects with the opportunity to build relationships with patients over many years. The practice of nephrology is very varied, which is fun. In any one day I might work in the intensive care unit, the chronic dialysis unit, the inpatient wards, and the outpatient clinic. Nephrologists are also really nice people in general, particularlymy colleagues at DHMC. I'm fortunate to work with incredibly smart people who are so supportive of each other and fun to be around.

If you weren't a physician, what would you like to be?
I love what I do. It would be hard to think of a more rewarding career. I almost became a physical therapist, and I think that would also have been a great job for

me. Occasionally I wonder what would have happened if I had grown up in the U.S. and had a more liberal-arts education, rather than being channeled into the sciences from a young age. I think I would have liked to go into the foreign service.

What famous person, living or dead, would you most like to spend a day shadowing?
Antonio Banderas.

What's your favorite nonwork activity?
Spending time with my daughter, Jyoti, who is a wonderful 12-year-old. I also enjoy cooking and eating with friends, reading, and walking in the woods with our

dog. The best thing I did in the past 10 years was to get rid of our TV.

What's a recent movie you saw?
The Princess Bride—for about the 43rd time. It's hilarious in a very sweet way.

What do family and friends give you a hard time about?
I am very bad at schedules, which I know drives my colleagues crazy. I also sing to myself in public, invariably out of tune. Probably there are quite a few more things I don't know about!

Finish this sentence: If I had more time I would . . .
Readmore books, swimevery day, learn sign language, keep alpacas, and take a life drawing class every week.

Do you have any favorite recipes?
A black bean recipe that was originally from the Coyote Cafe cookbook. And a delicious Thai pumpkin soup recipe from my friend Kirsten Holst. My favorite dessert is triple chocolate brownies—a recipe from Neil Cohen, a colleague in San Francisco.

What do you admire most in other people?

If you invented a time machine, where would you go?
Into the future to check that the earth is still okay and to meet my grandchildren. Then to an ancient civilization that we know very little about, such as the Sumerians or Etruscans.

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