Cultivating a New Generation of Rheumatologists
A shortage of rheumatologists makes it hard for people with arthritis to get needed care. The Arthritis Foundation seeks to grow the number of specialists.
Over the past few decades, the Arthritis Foundation and the arthritis community have made enormous strides in helping patients. Today, however, there aren’t enough rheumatologists available to diagnose, treat and dispense drugs to the people who need them. And unless something is done, the problem will only get worse.
The Arthritis Foundation’s fellowship initiative is part of the Foundation’s strategy to ensure access to medical care for more than 54 million Americans living with doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) cautions about the insufficient number of rheumatologists (both adult and pediatric) available to serve the increasing 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 that are needed to meet patient needs.
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Early diagnosis and treatment are 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 specific 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 most significant shortages. 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.
I sought a career that would combine my desire to create long-lasting patient relationships, manage complex chronic disease, and use my clinical and diagnostic skills to serve a unique patient population in need. Thanks to the Arthritis Foundation’s Charles F. and Marilyn Meier Pediatric Rheumatology Fellowship fund award, I found all of this and more through pediatric rheumatology and am thrilled to be at the beginning of my clinical and research training in this rich field.Dr. William D. Soulsby III, UCSF 2019-2020 fellow
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