Cultivating a New Generation of Rheumatologists

Over the past few decades, the Arthritis Foundation and the arthritis community has made enormous strides in developing new arthritis medications. Today, however, there aren’t enough rheumatologists available to get these drugs to the people who need them. And unless something is done, the problem will only get worse.

The Arthritis Foundation’s fellowship initiative, “Cultivating a New Generation of Rheumatologists”, is part of the Foundation’s strategy to ensure access to medical care for the 54 million Americans living with doctor diagnosed arthritis.

The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) cautions of the insufficient number of rheumatologists (both adult and pediatric) available to serve the growing patient population. This growing shortage is expected to increase, creating more barriers to care; subsequently, worsening disease outcomes, negatively impacting quality of life, decreasing productivity and increasing mortality rates. Without immediate efforts, we will have 43 percent fewer adult rheumatologists and 50 percent fewer pediatric rheumatologists than are needed to meet patient needs.

Be Part of It: Cultivating New Rheumatologists

See how we're aiming to address the growing shortage of arthritis specialists, especially in underserved parts of the country.

Early diagnosis and treatment is essential to prevent or minimize the uncontrolled inflammation that can lead to joint damage and even disability. Patients must have access to rheumatologists within recommended timeframes, yet geography affects how quickly a patient can be seen. Outside of major metropolitan areas and certain regions, the number available thins, sometimes to zero. This shortage also adds to the costs incurred by patients - not only do they pay for direct health care costs, they also pay for travel and time away from school and work.

To close this gap, we are leading the way by expanding the number of fellowship opportunities for rheumatologists, focusing on communities with the greatest need. Our patient-centered approach allows doctors to get to know their community and what their patients really need, including Foundation resources that can help them.

As part of this program, the Foundation is awarding grants matching institutional costs up to $50,000 a year for the course of the fellowship. Each fellowship may last up to three years, for a total award maximum of $150,000. Fellowships that serve targeted markets (those with few rheumatologist) may be eligible for two thirds of institutional costs annually over the course of the fellowship, for a maximum award value of $200,000.

Testimonials from past fellowship awardees:

  • “We are very grateful to the Arthritis Foundation and to the Jane Wyman funding for the Pediatric Rheumatology Fellowship stipend. We rely on these funds to continue our fellowship program… UCLA covers only 60% of the salary for the first-year fellow and there are no monies for the 2nd and 3rd year fellows.  That means that we must find monies (about $80,000/year for salary and benefits) to cover each Pediatric Rheumatology Fellow over the 3-year program. As the Pediatric Rheumatology Fellowship Program Director, it is an arduous task to find the funding.” Deborah McCurdy, MD. Head of the Pediatric Rheumatology department, Pediatric Rheumatology Fellowship Program Director at UCLA.
  • “Thank you for this outstanding support... This support mechanism has been a terrific addition to our division, with which Dr. Kolfenbach has been able to expand our fellowship program numbers now and we anticipate the same going forward.” V. Michael Holers, MD. Head of the Division of Rheumatology Departments of Medicine and Immunology, University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Interested institutional fellowship directors should visit proposalCENTRAL to learn more and to apply.

Application deadline: February 15, 2018; 11:59 PM EST