Dr. Keia Sanderson is an assistant professor of medicine in the division of nephrology and hypertension, specializing in chronic kidney disease and dialysis, acute kidney injury and glomerular diseases.

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Keia Sanderson, MD

Where are you from?

I am originally from Charlotte. I graduated from Rice University in Houston, Texas, and attended medical school at the University of Missouri. I completed residency training at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Columbia, SC and fellowship in Kansas City, MO. However, North Carolina is my home!

What brought you to UNC Medical Center?

After completing my pediatric nephrology fellowship in Missouri, I wanted to come back to serve my home community, and there is no place like home. As a child, I often came to summer camps at UNC. Walking on campus now is full circle for me.

Did you always want to be a doctor?

I recently found an essay that I wrote in the first grade where I described wanting to be a pediatrician. I was inspired by my African American female pediatrician who was my first example of a physician that looked like me. Very early in my life, she along with my parents made me feel like I could do anything.

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Keia Sanderson, MD presenting a poster at the American Society of Nephrology Kidney Week in 2016

How did you choose your specialty?

When I started medical school, the pediatric nephrologists were amazing teachers and also the most approachable at my institution. So naturally, I greatly respected them and gravitated toward the pediatric nephrology clinics. The care they provided to their patients inspired me. Similar to them, I began to take interests in serving the pediatric nephrology population. On a personal level, pediatric kidney disease disproportionately affects underrepresented minority children and I wanted to serve and inspire all children but particularly children from underrepresented minority groups like myself.– Just as my pediatrician inspired me!

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

It is true some of the children I care for are very sick and/or critically ill and part of my job is quite tough. Yet, children are  so amazing, strong, and resilient.  It’s very rewarding to support children through illness and to see them overcome. I get to celebrate high school and college graduations with my patients!

What are some of the new developments in your field of specialty?

There is a significantly increased risk for chronic kidney disease after preterm birth.  This is important because 1 in 10 children in the US is born preterm.  I am researching prenatal, antenatal, and neonatal factors that might worsen or attenuate chronic kidney disease after preterm birth. We as a community hope to identify ways to reduce the risk of CKD, to provide earlier recognition of CKD in children, and to slow progression of CKD in children after preterm birth.

Is there a particular achievement (professional or personal) that has been most gratifying to you?

I’m a mother of three little boys, and I am most proud of being a mom physician. My sons are proud of the work that I do and I’m grateful that they are inspired by it.  Occasionally, I hear them discussing things like checking a pulse, blood pressure, or even attempting CPR while they are playing with their toys and its always funny to hear that coming from them.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice comes from my maternal grandmother, who was one of my favorite people. She was a public school teacher; one of the first teachers integrating schools in NC. She always told me that learning is lifelong. She often reminded me to never stop seeking knowledge.  I try to practice this approach every day. I learn from my patients and for my patients. Of course, parenting is an everyday learning process as well.

If you weren’t a physician, what would you like to be doing?

I really like food. A dream career would be to be teaching communities about food and cooking. I also wouldn’t mind a career professionally critiquing food.

What hobbies do you enjoy?

I really enjoy traveling specifically to eat! I will travel far and wide to try new foods or restaurants around the world! I also collect cookbooks and read recipes for fun.

Do you have a favorite quote or life motto?

Ubuntu.  Its aligned with a Bantu (South African) proverb: I am because you are, You are because we are.  I fully believe we achieve the greatest when we share and connect with others.

What was the last book you read?

The last book I read was “The Sun Does Shine” by Anthony Ray Hinton. It’s about a man in Alabama, who was wrongly convicted, on death row for 28 years, and was recently exonerated. Despite his horrible experience, he became a beacon for positive changes for death row inmates. Post exoneration he has been an amazing advocate for prison reform. It’s a great book about faith, persistence, and optimism.


Learn more about Dr. Sanderson, here.