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Volume 6, Number 12Space holderMarch 29, 2002

Dr. Scribner and patient

Belding Scribner (right) with patient Wesley Elbert and his wife Dalice Elbert. Elbert was one of the first to receive the Scribner shunt at what was then University Hospital (now UW Medical Center).

Scribner honored for dialysis research

Dialysis researcher Belding Scribner, professor emeritus of medicine, received a lifetime achievement award March 4 at the 8th International Symposium on Hemodialysis and 22nd Annual Dialysis Conference in Tampa, Fla.

Treatment of chronic renal failure was forever changed in 1960 when Scribner and his team developed a U-shaped Teflon tube that became known as the "Scribner shunt." The shunt, inserted between an artery and vein in a patient's forearm, was opened and connected to the artificial kidney machine during dialysis. Teflon, a material relatively new to the biomedical community at the time, has non-stick properties making it less likely to clot. Prior to Scribner's shunt, a patient could receive only a few dialysis treatments before doctors would run out of places to connect the machine to the patient.

Scribner also, in collaboration with UW professor of nuclear and chemical engineering Albert Babb (now emeritus), created a system to provide dialysis fluid for simultaneous dialysis of several patients in the Clinical Research Center at the UW Medical Center and to reduce treatment costs. A smaller version of this, for use in treating one patient, was developed to make home hemodialysis possible and became the prototype for almost all the hemodialysis machines in use worldwide today.

In addition, Scribner and James Haviland, former associate dean of the medical school, developed the first free-standing dialysis center in the world. This opened in 1962 as the three-bed Seattle Artificial Kidney Center.

Scribner joined the UW faculty in 1951 and retired in 1990. He and his wife Ethel continue to live in their houseboat on Portage Bay across from the Health Sciences building.

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