Working to Reduce Health Care Disparities

Arthritis Foundation awards 2024 fellowships to address rheumatology workforce shortage.

By Vandana Suresh | June 24, 2024

The Arthritis Foundation has awarded 2024 Clinical Rheumatology Fellowships to the University of Iowa (UI) and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), affirming its continued commitment to addressing the critical workforce shortage of rheumatologists in the United States.

Autoimmune diseases affect 1 in every 10 individuals. Furthermore, experts project that the global, regional and national burden of autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, will only increase in the next few decades. Thus, improved access to diagnosis and treatment is imperative in reducing the burden of rheumatic diseases.

“Right now, patients have to wait an average of 45 days to see a rheumatologist,” said Kristen Mueller, PhD, vice president of autoimmune arthritis research at the Arthritis Foundation. “With the clinical fellowships, we are leading the way by expanding the number of fellowship opportunities for rheumatologists.”

The Foundation has awarded the 2024 Clinical Rheumatology Fellowships to medical training programs that will reduce workforce barriers to care and support early-in-career physicians committed to engaging with under-served communities. With this support, UAB will train competent rheumatologists for academic and community practice. Clinical training will be throughout the UAB medical complex, including the UAB University Hospital, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Children’s Hospital of Alabama. Rheumatology Fellowship Program Director Amanda Alexander, MD, at UAB, noted that these venues would expose trainees to various rheumatic diseases and an opportunity to interact with diverse patient populations in both the outpatient and inpatient settings.

With its fellowship award, UI will create the nation’s first designated Rural Rheumatology Health Track within its Adult Rheumatology Fellowship Training Program. UI Fellowship Program Director Bharat Kumar, MD, said this track will enable fellows to become agents of change in their communities by addressing long-standing rural health care disparities.

The generous contributions of our donors make the Foundation's continued efforts in this area possible. Fellows funded by the award will receive $50,000 per year for three years. Discover more about the Foundation’s other scientific initiatives, which shape the development of new arthritis treatments and strengthen relationships between patients and caregivers.

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