Profile in Research: Lisa G. Suter, MD
Lisa G. Suter, MD, is Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Section of Rheumatology at Yale University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on developing “best practices” in rheumatology through the translation of evidence into practice. Her current Arthritis Foundation grant project is a cost-effectiveness analysis of using magnetic resonance imaging for early diagnosis and treatment determination in rheumatoid arthritis.
How do you think your research will impact your local community?
Like most areas of the country, Connecticut is struggling with rising health care costs. Both physicians and patients are bombarded with information about new health technologies, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). My work aims to help make sense of the data and place it in a coherent framework that takes both cost and clinical outcome into account.
How would you ultimately like to see your research applied?
In addition to offering insight into the optimal way to apply technology to arthritis care, I hope that my work will help frame the discussion around determining a “best practice” approach to the early diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
What are your impressions of the Arthritis Foundation?
The Arthritis Foundation has been an integral part of both my research career and my clinical practice. The Foundation supported my earlier research on Raynaud’s phenomenon. That work really cemented my commitment to a career in medical research and gave me important skills for my academic career. Similarly, as a clinician and teacher, I try to make sure all of my patients know about the Arthritis Foundation. It’s an incredibly valuable resource for both patients and physicians, from information about treatment choices and nutritional advice, to support networks and financial planning. For a physician, it’s very important to have such a comprehensive resource available to my patients because it’s impossible to cover all topics relevant to someone with a chronic illness in any given clinic visit. With the resources available through the Arthritis Foundation, my patients are empowered to learn about their illness from a reliable source, so together we can tailor our clinical time to address their specific questions and concerns.
What role do you feel the Arthritis Foundation plays in the progress of arthritis research?
The skyrocketing costs of health care, combined with the aging of the population and rising expenses in areas outside of health care, all impact the ability of the federal government to support biomedical research. The Arthritis Foundation provides essential additional funding pathways for researchers and ensures that this very important chronic illness gets the attention it deserves.
Given the prevalence of arthritis, do you have a personal connection that makes the disease more than a statistic to you?
Every month, a friend or family member calls me with an arthritis-related question. With all the new drugs being released and all the studies that are published every day, it’s easy to lose sight of how arthritis impacts all of us, and I think talking to my family and friends about arthritis helps me maintain perspective as to what is really important.
What are the mysteries surrounding arthritis that interest you most?
I am most interested in determining how we as physicians and patients can maximize the tremendous resources already available to us and ensure that all of the research is effectively translated into clinical benefit. It is my career goal to ensure that everyone who can benefit from treatment does benefit and does so to the greatest extent possible. The rapid development of new treatment and diagnostic tools in arthritis combined with the impact that arthritis has on our lives makes this field the perfect place to devote my energy.
When you’re not in the lab, where can you most often be found?
Outside of work, I’m most often at home with my husband and two sons or off on a family hike in the woods.
Favorite non-medical book you read last?
It’s a tie between Alexander McCall Smtih’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, a delightful and optimistic story about a female private detective in Botswana, and David McPhail’s Mole Music, a children’s book that illustrates the transformative power of music.
Favorite music and artist?
It’s hard to name just one, but I think folk music and all of its influences are my favorite. I have recently been rediscovering Joni Mitchell with my children, so right now, I would say she is my favorite artist.
If you weren’t a medical researcher, what would you be doing now?
I would still be a mom and a rheumatologist interested in improving health care in America, just on a smaller scale.