Faculty Interview: Delphine Tuot, MD

A Conversation with Delphine Tuot, Associate Professor in the Division of Nephrology at ZSFG

Delphine Tuot
Delphine Tuot, MD

Where were you born and raised? Where does your surname originate?

I was born in Columbus, Ohio, and moved to Connecticut with my family when I was eleven. My dad worked for Nestlé’s research and development department and that was one of their two locations. I came to California for college because I wanted to spread my wings and to leave the Northeast. I did my undergrad at Stanford, which I loved and knew was going to be my home. I went to medical school in Montreal, Canada, where my parents met although they, and my entire family, were from France.

Tell me about your family.

My mother was from Algeria, which was originally a French colony before it gained its independence, and my dad is from Dijon in the Burgundy area. My parents independently moved to Montreal, where they met and married, and my sister and I were both born in the U.S. French was my first language and we had the pleasure of visiting France every summer to spend time with our grandparents and extended family. My sister, who was a business major, has since moved to France.

What led to Nephrology and your focus on chronic kidney disease? What is its constant challenge?

Some people know their calling in Medicine early on, but I did not. I knew I loved everything about Medicine but it wasn’t until my Internal Medicine years that I was excited about the bedside teaching of some clinician educators and gravitated towards Nephrology. Maybe it was a random experience, as I remember, in my second year and in a half-day Nephrology clinic, I saw an incredible diversity of patients with diabetes, lupus, Conn’s disease and a woman with IgA who was pregnant and I distinctly remember each encounter as having an educational interplay between physician and patient. The physiology of the kidney is amazing; it’s the unsung hero of the body. The socio-economic disparities of chronic kidney disease intrigued me and became something that I wanted to research, but it’s just one of the challenges.

Another challenge is talking about kidney disease with both patients and other providers because it’s a “bucket diagnosis”: each person’s diagnosis has different causes despite the fact that they have “kidney disease.” Our job is to tease it apart for respective patients, to better delineate and tailor treatment appropriately.

How does your work with the Center for Vulnerable Populations intersect with your other research work?

All of my research and work intersect although it may not seem so on paper. My big interest is to improve chronic kidney disease management in its early phases, in primary care, before it reaches specialty care. Ideally, I’d like to put all Nephrologists out of the ESRD business by focusing on preventative care. My work focuses primarily on identifying kidney disease in primary care and working with safety net institutions to develop strategies to improve diagnosis and management of kidney disease for those at highest risk of progression. Those often include individuals of racial, ethnic and socio-economic minorities. It isn’t easy, but we have phenomenal primary care colleagues who are eager to work with us on this topic. One of our resources at ZSFG is the e-consult program: early access to specialty expertise. It leverages technology, but really, it’s about connection and communication between primary care and specialty care.

To who do you turn most frequently for concerns, great and small? What about this individual elicits your trust?

My husband, who is an emergency room physician at Kaiser. I am a detail-oriented person, which works well for projects, but I sometimes am unable to see the proverbial forest for the trees. He often helps me step back to see the bigger picture.

What floral scent is intoxicating to you? To what do you react most immediately?

I love lilies, but they can be overpowering, but sunflowers are my favorite – they have no smell but they bring joy and happiness to any room. I react to music and played both piano and violin when I was much younger. I love going to all sorts of concerts and am a member of the San Francisco Jazz Center. In medical school, I fell in love with opera and have had season tickets since 2003. Opera appeals to all of my senses: the costumes, the music, and storytelling. The first opera performance I saw was Rigoletto by Mozart; more recently, I saw Arabella by Strauss, which was beautiful. I respond most to the alto voice, not too high, not too low – it has a great range.

What radio, podcast or TV shows do you enjoy?

I am not a huge TV watcher. On NPR, I enjoy Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me on Saturday mornings. I also listen to Planet Money, which brings economics to an everyday discussion. Also, Moth Radio is great.

Share other interests that you enjoy.

I love to go out to eat and am partial to French food, although it’s hard to find restaurants that live up to my expectations. Chapeau, on Clement Street, is a staple and the chef is from Brittany.

Have you ever attempted to give up something for a period of time? How did that work out?

Are you familiar with the Whole 30 diet? It’s a crazy diet that I tried a couple of years ago for 30 days. The idea is that you give up staples in your particular diet and then, once you re-introduce them, identify which one make you feel less well and which ones make you feel energetic. For someone of French lineage, who lives on bread and cheese, cutting out most dairy and carbs was really hard. I tried it on a lark after friends did and swore they felt better, but all it did was reinforce my love for bread and cheese!

What kind of traveler are you when on vacation? When and where will be your next vacation?

My favorite vacations are those that have some planned activities, like going to museums, and also allow spontaneity.  Our next trip has been on our bucket list: two weeks in Japan where we’ll eat our way through Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.

Thank you,

Interviewed by Oralia Schatzman