Closing the Pediatric Rheumatology Gap in Rural America

Dr. Julie Campbell brings her specialty to her home state of Montana.

By Anthony Williams | March 8, 2024

Montana now has its first full-time pediatric rheumatologist with the arrival of Julie Campbell, MD, thanks to support from the Arthritis Foundation. Montana had been one of seven states in the country without a single pediatric rheumatologist until Dr. Campbell began practicing in her under-served home state.

Dr. Campbell’s current practice — based in Missoula, Montana, at Logan Health Specialty Care — is the result of an Arthritis Foundation-funded fellowship in 2020 that led her to achieve this significant milestone. She was granted the fellowship award through the Seattle Children’s Hospital and University of Washington Pediatric Rheumatology Fellowship Program, with support of the Ludlow-Griffith Foundation. While studying at Dartmouth College, Dr. Campbell’s grandmother was diagnosed with lupus, an arthritis-related disease, which began her interest in rheumatology.

“Growing up in Montana, I was exposed to the benefits and challenges of rural life from an early age,” Dr. Campbell says. “I was lucky in that I was healthy and I never required subspecialty care. Had I needed that type of care, I would have had to travel two states away to see a provider.

“I wanted to provide exceptional health care for patients in rural areas. What I learned firsthand are the difficulties many patients have in accessing care in rural areas. I discovered my interest in pediatrics, which I pursued, and decided to choose pediatric rheumatology as my career.”

Conditions I treat can take a while to diagnosis. I love both solving the puzzle and figuring out how to get kids back to being normal kids.

Julie Campbell, MD

Getting to Know Her patients and Helping Them Grow Up

Dr. Campbell finds joy in witnessing her patients’ transformative journeys from childhood to young adulthood. “I love getting to know my patients and their families over the course of their lives,” she says. “Most rheumatologic diseases are chronic, and because of that, I get to see my patients grow up to become young adults.

“I enjoy the challenges of uncertainty. Many of the conditions I treat can take a while to diagnosis. And I love both solving the puzzle and figuring out how to get kids back to being normal kids.”

As part of the Targeted Rural and Underserved Track (TRUST) opportunity, Dr. Campbell was matched with a rural community that needed her medical attention. During her residency, Dr. Campbell worked with several pediatric rheumatology researchers on different projects, including one that looked at the onset of psoriasis in children, and another looking at the onset of juvenile idiopathic arthritis in infants 12 months and younger.

Outside her professional life, Dr. Campbell loves to ski (both downhill and cross country), hike with her dog Pippin, read, try new recipes and make homemade ice cream. But she’s always thinking about new ways to help improve the lives of the people she has decided to serve.

“I hope to work with colleagues to create tools for pediatric patients with autoimmune disease to improve outcomes in rural areas,” Dr. Campbell says. In her current role, Dr. Campbell is answering the call and doing just that: working to improve the health of families in Montana and nearby states.

Story of Yes

Say Yes! Share Your Story

One of the most powerful things you can do to help others living with arthritis is share your story. If you have arthritis, care for someone who does or are making an impact in the arthritis community, your experiences can help someone who may feel alone. Whether you're a patient, caregiver, donor, volunteer or researcher — you can be an inspiration by sharing your Story of Yes.

Share Your Story
Say Yes! Share Your Story

Stay in the Know. Live in the Yes.

Get involved with the arthritis community. Tell us a little about yourself and, based on your interests, you’ll receive emails packed with the latest information and resources to live your best life and connect with others.