Medical Field: Pediatrics
Award: Winner
Country: Croatia
Year: 2021
Research Work: Geospatial clustering of childhood IgA vasculitis and IgA vasculitis-associated nephritis
Published in: Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases


Research is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.


Matej Šapina, MD, PhD, works as a pediatric resident at the Pediatrics Clinic at the University hospital Osijek in Croatia. He is one of two finalists in the field of Pediatrics. For him, being named a finalist is proof that others recognize the value of his work. 

Matej Šapina, MD, PhD, has a wide range of research interests, from basic biomedical research to clinical research. These include biomedical signal processing, autonomic nervous system maturation, pediatric rheumatology, clinical epidemiology, and biostatistics, and he has had various opportunities to work with colleagues from around the world on different research topics. This led him to develop his programming skills to apply modern analytical techniques in his scientific work.

In his research, Matej Šapina, MD, PhD, was interested in IgA vasculitis (IgAV) or better known as Henoch-Schonlein purpura. It is the most common vasculitis in children, characterized by various signs and symptoms: purpuric skin lesions, joint and kidney involvement, and abdominal pain. 

We took a novel approach to our research. Using complex modern analytical methods, we wanted to find out how IgAV is distributed in space. The main idea was to investigate a general hypothesis based on Tobler's first law of geography: 'Everything is related to everything, but near things are more related than distant things.' And if close things are indeed more related than distant things, then we hypothesized that the occurrence of IgA vasculitis (IgAV) and IgA vasculitis-associated nephritis (IgAVN) might be spatially clustered.

The results showed two different types of spatial clustering of IgAV and IgAVN. IgAV is mainly found near cities, while they observed a linear clustering of IgAVN along the Drava and Danube rivers. Their work has provided a foundation and framework for further research that can focus on identifying possible genetic or environmental causes. It can also serve as an illustrative example of non-communicable diseases in shaping public health policy.

The most beautiful thing about our work is that we manage to cure the patient. When the patient goes home healthy, I am satisfied personally, intellectually and as a human being. I have managed to help someone, based on my knowledge, to continue their life the way they originally started it, and that's actually a minor difficulty that occurred temporarily.