When Texas Kidney Foundation President & CEO Tiffany Jones-Smith enrolled in the 2021-22 SVPSA Fellowship program, she had few expectations. “I thought, I’ll just take some classes and they will tell me some things about nonprofits. But every single month they presented information that was applicable to our organization,” Jones-Smith said. “Even the class on Strengths Finders was helpful. And we already used it – but I didn’t see the full depth of how it could be applied to our business until SVP.”
It was the class that dealt with capacity and scale that led the CEO to completely change strategy and direction for the organization she’s led since 2017. The Texas Kidney Foundation works to stop the progression of kidney diseases. That’s a mission Jones-Smith thought was best accomplished by working in cities across Texas.
“They said, I know you have a big vision, but you’ve got to start smaller because you’re diluting your resources. I didn’t want to hear that, but as I listened and thought about it, I decided we would focus on Bexar County,” Jones-Smith explained. “We have a diverse population here, and on the diagnostic side, we can get data from diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and obesity – the four main causes of kidney disease. We developed a plan to study 8,000 people in Bexar County, which is the largest survey that’s ever been done in a single county. As a result, we became a recognized research institution under the National Institute of Health All of Us Program. By concentrating our resources, we will be able to affect change statewide because we’ll have accurate, powerful data. We’ll do it right from the beginning, because of SVP.”
Jones-Smith says the Covid pandemic has had a direct and an indirect impact on their work. One in three people are at risk for chronic kidney disease, and most don’t even realize it. Covid acted as an Acute Kidney Injury for many infected people. For others, the pandemic has been eye-opening because so many people are now focused on their health and paying attention to the work of organizations like the Texas Kidney Foundation.
Kidney disease is a deeply personal issue for Jones-Smith, who lost 12 family members to the disease. She is hopeful more people will educate themselves and get screened to catch it early.
To learn more, visit TxKidney.org. In addition to support through financial donations, they also want people to spread the word on social media about the importance of getting your kidneys checked. To access free kidney screenings, go to Silentbutdeadly.org.