About Lori Hartwell

Lori Hartwell has made a difference in the lives of people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) by proving that it is possible to have a fulfilling life despite chronic illness, despite developing kidney disease at age two, and despite 40 plus surgeries, 13 years of dialysis, and four kidney transplants. Lori founded the patient-led Renal Support Network (RSN) in 1993 to promote “health, happiness, and hope” in the lives of her fellow patients.

She is the author of Chronically Happy— Joyful Living in Spite of Chronic Illness, an inspirational guidebook for handling lifestyle and other nonmedical issues that arise in the course of chronic disease. Her annual Renal Teen Prom has enjoyed local broadcast and national cable television coverage.

As a sought-after inspirational and motivational speaker, she has appeared on dozens of radio programs and news programs; those experiences led her to create and co-host “KidneyTalk!”—a unique online radio talk show aimed at those affected by CKD. Over the years, she has developed numerous programs for RSN, reaching out to the millions of people with kidney disease across the nation.

Lori is married to Dean Hartwell and they have a 3 dogs, 2 cats and a parrot. 


Lori began her career in the entertainment world by creating unique packaging and marketing materials for new movies and record releases.  She worked with Disney, Geffen Records, Warner Brothers to name a few of her clients.   

She soon discovered her passion was to work in the healthcare community to apply the vast knowledge she had learned from being a pioneer as patient in kidney disease. 

She joined the medical community in 1994 as a technical sales specialist for HemaMetrics (formerly In-Line Diagnostics), which developed a hematocrit-controlled hemodialysis technology. She then accepted the position of Western Regional Sales Manager for Medcomp, a manufacturer of vascular access catheters. There she oversaw company activities in 7 states. These positions allowed her to visit more than 500 freestanding and hospital-based dialysis units in 30 states. She was thus able to develop a broad-based, multifaceted view of the U.S. renal population and to witness the importance of mutual understanding between patients and their health care providers in the quest for quality care.

This broad-based, first-hand knowledge of patients and kidney disease led naturally to publishing; she became the editor of the medical journal Contemporary Dialysis & Nephrology and of the lay journal For Patients Only.

She was the content publisher of the popular website, which was the leading website for patients in late 90s. In 2000, combining this experience with her knowledge of renal disease from the perspectives of both the patient and the industry, she established herself as a powerful advocate and spokesman for people who have kidney disease. 

She wrote and produced “Communication Prescription for the Renal Care Professional,” a 60-minute video that shares practical advice, creative communications concepts, and stories of hope from people who live with kidney disease and from veteran renal care professionals. This video, which won a 2001 Aegis Award for quality, illustrates the positive impact that renal care professionals can have on people’s lives.

Lori provides motivational and educational presentations to both the healthcare community and general public. 

In 1993, she realized one of her most ambitious dreams when she founded RSN, whose influence now extends across the nation.

Public Service

Lori has worked with elected officials to advise on the impact of current and potential policies on people with chronic illnesses.

  • Southern California Renal Disease Council
  • California Dialysis Council
  • Kidney Care Partners
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’
  • Appointed to serve on former California state Governor Gray Davis’ State Rehabilitation Council.
  • Department of Defense Discovery Award Grant Applicant Reviewer