From Kidney Failure to Kidney Stone Specialist
Matthew Breeggemann is a compassionate nephrologist who has chosen to focus on kidney stones, a uncommon speciality across the country.
What is generally lesser known about Matthew is that he has been committed to medicine practically his entire life. That is because Matthew lives with an ultra rare kidney disease called primary hyperoxaluria type 1 (PH1).
“The reality is that [PH1] affects me every day. For a period of 10-15 years it was a lot of kidney stones. And I can remember every single one of them,” Matthew said. “It’s kind of always there. I’ve been doing this my whole life.”
In fact, at 18 months, due to his disease, Matthew experienced complete kidney failure which nearly killed him. Fortunately, pediatric nephrologist Dr. Michael Mauer not only saved Matthew’s life, but also nurtured and ignited his fire to pursue medicine.
“There is no doubt. I would not be a nephrologist if I didn’t have this [disease],” said Matthew, who did his residency in internal medicine at Dartmouth where he was also promoted to chief resident. “I was very curious growing up and I asked a lot of questions at my appointments. Before I was probably ten years old I knew I wanted to dedicate my work to help kidney stone patients.”
Living with a chronic condition has given Matthew a unique perspective of the many facets that make up the medical field. He has participated in numerous clinical trials, he manages his condition which includes taking up to twelve medications daily, he experienced complete kidney failure, and has received critical care. Though he’s lived through all of these experiences, Matthew has never once spoken about his rare disease journey for a medical school, residency, or job interview.
“I didn’t share that part of my story. Part of it was the disease was so severe I was actually worried about getting into medical school because I could possibly not survive. It was just a calculated decision I made early in my life,” Matthew said. “I wanted to earn everything I have because of my hard work and grades. It’s only been the last couple years I’ve become a little more open.”
Now in his early thirties, Matthew is poised to combine his experience as a rare kidney patient and his expertise as a kidney stone specialist to hopefully carve out a brighter future for PH1 patients.
During his residency, he received a grant from the patient advocacy organization Oxalosis & Hyperoxaluria Foundation (OHF) for a research internship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which he completed in 2018. Through this time, he realized patients like himself had to be part of the equation in the future. It isn’t just about him or his work, it is about them.
Matthew recently accepted a position to stay at the University of California, San Francisco where he will serve as co-medical director for a kidney stone clinic UCSF is set to open on his start date in 2023. His new position will allow him to be involved in all facets of the clinic including research and finding solutions for patients. He will continue his relationship with OHF, an organization that Uplifting Athletes partnered with for a Young Investigator Draft grant in 2020, because of their commitment to their community.
“I plan to do and help as much as possible with OHF. The research and young investigator component is super appealing to me,” said Matthew. “Patients are people. I enjoy meeting people and other kidney stone patients and helping them was my goal 20 years ago. You just have to really connect with people in order to help them best.”