Dr. Thomas Raphael

Dr. Thomas Raphael in his office working on the computer

Thomas Raphael, Nephrologist at NephroCare Marne la Vallée, Chairman of NephroCare Marne la Vallée Medical Committee and NephroCare Marne la Vallée Medical Coordinator is sharing his story with us.

Forty-two-year-old Thomas Raphael joined NephroCare in 2004, when Lagny Private Hospital, where he had worked as a nephrologist since 2001, was acquired by Fresenius Medical Care. In May 2013, Dr. Raphael and his team were relocated to the new site at Lagny Marne la Vallée hospital and the centre adopted the new name NephroCare Marne la Vallée.

A childhood calling

Medicine has always been Dr. Raphael’s calling. “I grew up in a medical household,” he tells us. “My father was a professor of intensive care medicine. My whole life, I wanted to follow in his footsteps. So after finishing school, I studied at the medical faculty of the Pitié Salpêtrière teaching hospital in Paris, and graduated in 1996. My father was and is my role model – I’ve always tried to live up to his sense of integrity and ethics.”

Even before qualifying, Dr. Raphael says he quickly realized that monitoring patients on a long-term basis was what he really wanted to do. “One of the main motivators in my career has always been my desire to help patients become strong individuals. I strive to do this by providing them with expert support, and by accompanying them and their families on the dialysis journey to become more involved and active. During my research year, I spent time covering shifts at Lagny polyclinic, specializing in nephrology. I was immediately struck by the caring, professional, and highly responsible approach of the nephrology team. So I returned to Lagny and joined the team in January 2001, with the specific aim of working on illness prevention in nephrology.”

Now, a decade later, Dr. Raphael has a wealth of experience under his belt and is the hospital’s medical coordinator and president of its medical committee. “Our main objective at NephroCare Marne la Vallée dialysis centre is to develop strong relations with all of the hospital’s departments, especially internal medicine and cardiology. We also provide nephrology consultations to the rest of the hospital.”

Designed with patients in mind

Opened in May 2013, NephroCare Marne la Vallée was designed as a pleasant and welcoming treatment environment. The purpose-built facility aims to ensure maximum patient safety and well-being. “Our new institution focuses on preventing renal failure, and treating and monitoring chronic kidney disease patients in the best possible way,” continues Dr. Raphael. “As a result, doctors and hospital physicians consider us the preferred local partner for the early screening of renal failure and subsequent monitoring.”

A typical day

Dr. Raphael’s day starts early. “I wake up at 5 a.m., drink a coffee, check my e-mails, then commute,” he explains. “When I get to the dialysis centre at about 6:30, I spend the next hour or two reading the day’s reports and preparing for consultations. The rest of the day is taken up with a mix of activities. In the morning and afternoon, I visit the patients undergoing dialysis, monitor their dialysis sessions and provide support to the medical staff. I also review patients’ files and update their prescriptions, and provide external nephrology consultations offsite. The most important parts of my everyday work are contact with patients and collaboration with my team. It’s about more than just dialysis – it’s about providing all-round care.”

Helping patients be proactive

“Patient participation is tremendously important and a subject close to my heart,” Dr. Raphael enthuses. “Putting patients back at the centre of the healthcare system, letting them play an active role in their treatment, and helping them become stronger is the core of our work. We take this approach with each and every patient.” As such, the centre runs a programme of pre-dialysis nursing consultations and therapeutic education in which all patients participate.

Personalised therapeutic support is given and meetings with other medical staff such as dieticians, psychologists, and pre-transplant advisors are initiated. “We offer our patients educational workshops appropriate to their needs,” continues Dr. Raphael. “Our workshops and training sessions cover all kinds of topics – how to apply an anaesthetic patch, monitor your blood sugar levels, take medication correctly, and so on. We plan to expand this scheme by providing patients with even more ways to increase their involvement and take control of their treatment on a made-to-measure basis.”

In Dr. Raphael’s view, soft factors count for a huge amount too. “Having chronic kidney disease is a bumpy psychological, social and emotional journey, both for patients and their families. So good communication between staff and patients is paramount. Patients can only play a more active role in their own care if they’re well-informed and trust their caregivers. At the end of the day, there’s nothing I find more motivating – or more rewarding – than seeing patients and staff satisfied and happy”.