Get a Read on Rheumatology’s Past

What happened to the Bulletin on the Rheumatic Diseases? This was a question posed to me by a Central American rheumatologist this past summer at the PANLAR meeting in Guatemala City, Guatemala. I told him the Bulletin was dead. The last issue of the Bulletin was on Behçet’s disease, by Kenneth Calamia, MD, and Merhrdad Mazlumzadeh, MD, volume 53, number 2, 2004, and was an online publication.

Those in leadership positions at the Arthritis Foundation (AF) in 2004 abruptly discontinued the Bulletin without discussing their decision with the Bulletin’s editorial board. Those on the editorial board of the Bulletin (including myself) wanted to do a final issue giving the history of the Bulletin and provide some explanations for its demise. That idea was rejected, and we were told that the Bulletin was not necessarily dead. We were told that it was premature to declare the Bulletin dead and that it was inappropriate to broadcast this to the ACR or anybody else. That was January 2005. I think that now we can say the Bulletin is dead.

There are at least three reasons that the AF decided to discontinue the Bulletin: 1) The foundation was not able to secure pharmaceutical industry funding; 2) there was a perception that such a publication was not needed; and 3) the evolving mission of the AF at that time did not include supporting such a publication.

I think that it is important for the new generations of rheumatologists, as well as for the older rheumatologists who remember the Bulletin well, to highlight the history of the Bulletin. The Bulletin played an important role in the education of physicians, residents, and students. I will provide the background to the saga of its last days.

Some History

The Bulletin was conceived during the optimistic time that followed the introduction of cortisone into clinical medicine in 1949.1 The first issue was published by the New York Chapter of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation in September 1950.2 A year later, the National Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation (ARA) undertook its publication. The ARA sponsored the Bulletin until 1987. Up to 1987, the ARA was a professional and lay organization combined. The ARA published Arthritis & Rheumatism, the Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases, and the Bulletin on the Rheumatic Diseases. In 1987, the ARA became the ACR, the professional organization, and the AF became the lay organization.2 The AF assumed the publication of the Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases and the Bulletin on the Rheumatic Diseases. The ACR continued to publish Arthritis & Rheumatism.

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