Word on Health

In Profile - David's Story

David Prosser is a Chartered Accountant by training. In 2013 he left the City after a career of 32 years working for PricewaterhouseCoopers (pwc), where he was a Senior Partner. David is Chairman of the Board of Governors, The Princess Helena College, near Hitchin, and a Trustee for Kidney Research UK. On retirement he took a Masters Degree in Creative Writing (The University of Cambridge, 2014-16) and is currently studying for an MA in Dramatic Writing at Central Saint Martins College, University of the Arts, London.

David Prosser’s kidney has just celebrated its 30th transplant anniversary. Thirty years ago his sister, Sylvia, donated a kidney to him after he had been ill for four years with kidney disease.

Today David, a Trustee at Kidney Research UK and, as a transplant patient himself, is passionate about funding the right research into what is still an incurable disease, to save people’s lives.

Before his illness and transplant surgery in 1987, David didn’t think very much about research into any medical condition. He didn’t understand how research was commissioned or funded or the connections between research in the lab through to patient therapies in a clinical setting.

In his own words, he ‘stumbled’ across Kidney Research UK while working as a partner of pwc in London. 

“One of my corporate clients was also a trustee at Kidney Research UK. He talked to me about the work of the charity and of the respect he had for the professors and researchers he had come across. I could see the passion in him, how much he thought it was worthwhile and I became intrigued.”

As David personally started to explore the work of the charity he found himself shocked that most of the research was funded by the public. “I think I naively assumed that the government or industry initiated research; I imagined it just happened. But the more I discovered about Kidney Research UK, the more I felt I wanted to contribute something into the mix – my time and skills.”

In 2014 there was a vacancy to the charity’s trustee board and David was appointed.

“At my first meeting, which went on for hours and which, if I’m honest I was dreading a bit, I heard about some of the research that was being funded and the potential of that to save lives. I heard about the passion and energy of the supporters and fundraisers who do a vast variety of activities to raise money for a cause they believe so deeply in. I also saw that the charity involved patients at the heart of its strategic decisions. And I simply came out energised. I was hooked.

“Very quickly I discovered Kidney Research UK is a well-run organisation that delivers results. It is objective-led and cares enormously about getting research funded. I found it is relentlessly efficient with its income – every pound delivered to it will result in something positive – and that drew me in further. I wanted to be able to contribute something to that drive and passion.”

“One of Kidney Research UK’s greatest strengths is its ability to break down barriers and get people to meet, to talk and then connect. I’ve seen this at first hand when the charity draws together scientists, researchers and healthcare professionals with politicians, industry leaders and business. It is a determinedly influencing organisation which is very good at synthesizing community and agreeing the things we can agree about. For example, last October we drew together some 35 clinicians, scientists, researchers and patients to explore current UK research into renal regenerative medicine, to discuss challenges and barriers to progression, and to identify opportunities for mutually agreed working and partnership. It’s still early days but out of this is a fantastic opportunity to build a UK-wide collaborative network for regenerative medicine where we can share ideas, technologies and our latest research findings.”

David has now been an active trustee board member of Kidney Research UK for nearly three years.

“Even in such a short space of time, I’ve seen the charity develop, become more strategic, raise more income, and fund more research. But there is still so much more to do. We can only fund about half of the projects that we’d like to. Kidney disease still has no absolute cure and there are more lives to save.

“I will not forget that sense of feeling permanently wiped out when I was on dialysis. Don’t get me wrong, it was a life saver, but the restrictive diet and the tie the machines creates presented challenges. There was a real feeling of treading water and that was very worrying for my wife, for my wider family and for me as a twenty-something. My sister Sylvia’s kidney saved my life. The overnight transformation was magical, and without the transplant my three daughters wouldn’t have been born. Happily, after recovering from surgery, Sylvia’s suffered no ill effects at all. My amazing good fortune makes my experience the exception, when it ought to be the rule.” 

Founded in 1961, the organisation is the largest charity dedicated to research into kidney disease in the UK, with the aim of finding better treatments and ultimately cures for kidney diseases. Its total commitment to renal research ranges from £12 to £15 million

Kidney disease is a silent killer and every year around 64,000 people are treated for end stage kidney failure, 3,000 people die on dialysis, while 240 die waiting for a kidney transplant. Kidney Research UK is dedicated to substantially reducing these numbers through funding life-saving research into kidney disease and by generating public awareness of kidney health.

80 per cent of people on the transplant list are waiting for a kidney, which is over 5,600 patients. Even though cases of kidney failure are increasing by four per cent every year, Kidney Research UK must turn down more than half the quality proposals it wants to support owing to a lack of funding - proposals which are aimed at enhancing treatments and ultimately finding a cure for kidney disease.

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