Before entering the renal field, Lori worked at Four Corners and Disney and learned first-hand how to create and produce point of purchasing displays and packaging for the Entertainment industry. She had a boss tell her that your work defines you and she made the decision to change careers.
Ms. Hartwell began her career in the renal field as a technical sales specialist for a developer of a hematocrit-controlled hemodialysis technology. She then accepted the position of Western Regional Sales Manager, distributors of vascular access catheters, where she oversaw company activities in seven states. These positions allowed her to visit more than 500 freestanding and hospital-based dialysis units in 30 states. As such, she was able to develop a broad-based, multi-faceted view of the U.S. renal patient population, and to witness the importance of a mutual understanding between patients and healthcare providers in the quest for quality care.
She took these experiences to the world of publishing, becoming editor of the medical journal Contemporary Dialysis & Nephrology and of the lay journal For Patients Only, and content publisher of the popular website iKidney.com. She established Hartwell Communications in 2000 to help create patient education materials.
Hartwell established Renal Support Network (RSN) in 1993 to instill “health, happiness, and hope” into the lives of those affected by chronic kidney disease. She has developed the organization into a nationwide resource of valuable non-medical information and support for kidney patients. Within RSN, Hartwell has established patient-led support groups, produced educational podcasts and programs, issued calls to action and advocacy, and developed inspirational materials for patients and their families. Hartwell produces RSN’s Hope Week, a five-day, annual virtual conference covering topics vital to the health and well-being of kidney patients featuring medical experts, healthcare providers and patients. She has also organized several inspirational programs for patients, including an annual essay contest and the Renal Teen Prom.
Hartwell won a 2001 Aegis Award for “Communication Prescription for the Renal Care Professional,” a 60-minute video that shares practical advice, creative communication concepts, and stories of hope from people who live with kidney disease and from renal care professionals. In 2002, she published her personal story in Chronically Happy – Joyful Living in Spite of Chronic Illness, the first book written by a kidney patient ever to reach national distribution.
She is known for her creativity and “thinking outside the box.” She had the idea to produce a play called “Who Lives” and cast professional patient actors who had kidney disease. The synopsis is in the early 1960s, an anonymous committee of ordinary citizens in Seattle selected kidney disease victims from a pool for an experiment with something new: a kidney dialysis machine. If the experiment worked, a small number of people would live instead of surely die from kidney failure. But who among the pool lives? How will the committee choose? Playwright Christopher Meeks centers the action on one person, attorney Gabriel Hornstein, who desperately needs what the committee offers.
Who Lives was nominated for five Los Angeles Ovation Awards. “Director Joe Ochman and executive producer Lori Hartwell have come up with an absolutely riveting and heart-pounding telling that succeeds on many levels.” –Jose Ruiz, ReviewPlays.com
This is just one example of the many creative ideas that Hartwell developed and implemented.
Through RSN, Hartwell has built strong coalitions with kidney care and professional organizations, has served on several industry and patient care boards, and has become a trusted voice of the kidney patient community. Her list of published articles, recognitions and awards is extensive, and she continues to speak for patients in policy forums and professional meetings in the U.S.
She is a founding member of Kidney Care Partners, Sevres on the National Quality Forum and a Patient Voice Editor for CJASN. She participates on various committees and workgroups, but her heart is with her peers and is constantly figuring out ways to engage them. It’s not uncommon for her to be chatting or typing with a one of her peers giving them suggestions on how to navigate care or a dose of hope.