What Is #NephMadness and How Do I Play?

Timothy T. Yau, MD


February 22, 2021

Timothy T. Yau, MD

NephMadness 2021 will launch on March 1 at This online event, co-hosted by the American Journal of Kidney Diseases and the National Kidney Foundation, draws on the fervor and bracketology of NCAA March Madness. Rather than basketball teams going head-to-head, NephMadness pits nephrology topics against each other. The winner is the one voted most impactful for patients in the near future. In last year's final round, SGLT2 inhibitors in patients without diabetes beat out percutaneous vascular access for hemodialysis.

The competition is one part of the fun, but the real purpose is for participants to learn more about the topics and to discuss them with other players. There are 32 topics, or teams, in the competition this year, divided among eight themed regions. For example, potassium, transplant, and genetics were some of our 2020 regions. Each region has a dedicated post at, which transforms into the command center for the event each year.

Participants read through the write-ups, choose winners for each matchup, and fill out their bracket online. For 2021, participants will have the entire month of March to read up and finalize their submissions. You can participate individually or as part of a team. Many training programs develop a friendly rivalry that mimics the intensity of the NCAA. (The winner of UNC vs Duke is always closely watched!)

The University of Washington Division of Nephrology Fellows gathered last year on Zoom at the start of the pandemic to debate their bracket submission.

How Are the Winners Chosen?

A dedicated panel of nine kidney health specialists vote on each matchup, selecting the topic to advance to the next round. This Blue Ribbon Panel justifies their decisions, but they are not infallible. As in the NCAA tournament, upsets happen, which is part of the fun. Participants may take to Twitter to voice their displeasure, using the hashtag #blueribbonfail, but these controversies often make for the best discussions. After all, it's more about the learning than the winning!

The Blue Ribbon Panel for 2021 (Top row, left to right: Susan Gurley, Richard Knight, Kimberly Manning, Roslyn Mannon, Cynthia Miracle. Bottom row, left to right: Vandana Niyyar, Paul Palevsky, Mayuri Trivedi, Cathy Quinlan)

In years past, #NephMadness parties and gatherings were not only encouraged, but a prize was awarded to the group with the most unique celebration.

This year, like last, is affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but remote group discussions and submissions are still a lot of fun. A Minecraft-inspired NephMadness world, created by the kids of an academic nephrologist, won the unique celebration award in 2020.

The overall winner is the player with the highest individual score, but top resident, fellow, and attending are also up for grabs as is a team award. Each year we see more engagement and submissions. Other specialities have caught the bug; our rheumatology colleagues have created their own #RheumMadness.

Once NephMadness 2021 launches, you can access templates and slides to review brackets with friends and colleagues, and find out how to earn MOC and CME credits. Check the AJKD Blog on March 1 for the big reveal. Best of all, the whole thing is free, fun, and open to nephrology geeks from around the world. Fellows from the Philippines submitted a group bracket last year.

We look forward to seeing your brackets this year. Be sure to follow the hashtag #NephMadness on Twitter for the discussion!

Timothy Yau is a nephrologist and clinical educator at Washington University in St. Louis. He has been an active participant in the nephrology social media scene and has been on the #NephMadness planning committee since 2017. In addition to his clinical and educational work, he is an avid video-gamer and plays many stringed instruments. His musical journey has taken him from blues, bluegrass, and folk to, most recently, traditional Irish music. You can follow him on Twitter @Maximal_Change

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