Our Fellowship Makes a World of Difference in Montana

Dr. Julie Campbell brings much-needed expertise to an under-served part of the country.

By Anthony Williams | May 24, 2024

Dr. Julie Campbell Due to a shrinking rheumatology workforce and growing need for care, it is estimated that the demand for rheumatologists will outstrip supply in the United States by more than 100% by 2030, according to The Journal of Rheumatology. “Efforts to increase the supply of rheumatology clinicians will continue to be critical,” the article concludes.

The Arthritis Foundation is committed to helping close the gap by funding fellowships for a new generation of rheumatologists. And our fellowship program is making great headway. One such fellowship bearing fruit comes with the introduction of Montana native Julie Campbell, MD, as the first full-time pediatric rheumatologist in her home state in recent years. She loved growing up there and always wanted to return someday.

Dr. Campbell earned her medical degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine and completed her pediatric residency at Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH). In 2020, with funding made available through the Arthritis Foundation, she started her three-year pediatric rheumatology fellowship program at SCH. After finishing, she launched her practice in 2023 at the Logan Health Specialty Clinic in Missoula, Montana, treating young patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), lupus, dermatomyositis and other childhood rheumatic conditions.

“As I navigated choosing my specialty, there were moments when I wasn’t sure it was going to come to fruition,” she admits. “I love rheumatology, but I got a little bit down, not knowing how I was going to be able to do this in Montana as a solo provider. A couple of mentors in my fellowship who were working by themselves in Idaho and North Dakota said, ‘You can do this!’” They were right.


Dr. Campell’s Homecoming

dr julie campbellDr. Campbell — who was involved in the Arthritis Foundation’s juvenile arthritis (JA) camp program, Jingle Bell Run and other fundraising events in the Seattle area during her studies — says the transition since she started practicing in Montana has gone very well, and she hopes to help bring such events and opportunities to her area in the future.

“I feel like I’m back in my community,” she says. The first several months after returning to Montana, Dr. Campbell began getting to know every new patient. “Some are new to rheumatology entirely. I’m trying to get a sense of what part I’m going to play in their journey ahead and hopefully be able to provide continuity in their care.”

Receiving an initial diagnosis is hard for families, she says. “Learning that it’s a chronic disease that may not go away is a big surprise for many. Coming out of left field, it can be a big adjustment realizing that you may have to live with it and adapt to it. Certainly, it’s doable, but it’s not something any parent wants for their child. The kids, however, they just kind of roll with it, like everything is new to them in some ways.”

It’s as much about the parents as it is about her patients, she acknowledges. “With juvenile arthritis, there’s a unique family dynamic taking shape. It’s cool to see families, including parents and siblings, learn how to create a ‘new normal.’”

Besides her practice in Missoula, Dr. Campbell regularly travels to different parts of Montana to treat young patients, including those who come from northern Idaho. She visits these outreach clinics every one to two months. That often means driving three hours each way to spend two days seeing patients. In addition to in-person visits, she also does telemedicine appointments.

Telemedicine has come a long way in the past few years thanks to COVID. “We’ve learned how to work from afar and let people be in their own space,” she points out. “We can get a sense of what their home life is like. Kids feel more comfortable at home, where they can run around and release some energy. There are many pet cameos to see, too, which is great: dogs, cats, reptiles, horses, whatever it is.”


Meeting Families “Where They’re At”

“Patients and their parents are happy I’m here, for sure,” Dr. Campbell says. “I want to be present, to meet families where they’re at. But it can be challenging in terms of my time and how to best spend it.”

In her spare time, Dr. Campbell likes to take her dog on hikes and enjoys camping and backpacking. “I love the snow,” she adds, “and can easily do cross-country and downhill skiing nearby. I also love to cook and make ice cream of all flavors.”

Dr. Campbell says her life back home in Montana is incredible, and that the lives of her patients are improving with better access to care. “I’m getting to know all my patients,” she says, and they no longer must travel as far for rheumatology care.

And there’s this: “Now, to look out my windows at the mountains, and being able to see patients who go to the same elementary and high schools as I did, it’s just, ‘Wow.’ Not many people get the chance to do that and make an impact on future generations. I feel so lucky. This is my dream job.”

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