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From: The Rheumatologist, November 2013

Incoming ACR President Joseph Flood, MD, Maps Out the Year Ahead

by Joseph Flood, MD

The Future Is Bright
Dr. Flood with his wife, Jeanne.
Dr. Flood
Dr. Flood

It has become customary for the new president of the ACR to outline an agenda for the upcoming year in his or her first column in The Rheumatologist.

To Start, A Bit About Myself

I would like to begin by telling you a little bit about my background. I had the great privilege of attending St. Ignatius High School in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. I am deeply grateful for the sacrifices my parents made to allow this to happen. The trajectory of my life was inexorably altered by my experiences at that Jesuit, all-male high school whose motto is “Men for Others.” It was there that I discovered that, although I came from meager circumstances, because of the gift of my education, much was expected of me.

I graduated from Baldwin-Wallace University (BW) in Berea, Ohio, and it was there that my life was again blessed and changed in a wonderful way. I was fortunate to have met my soul mate and spouse, Jeanne Likins, at BW forty years ago last month. We met at a student government meeting, which tells you a lot about the both of us. She is taking on the duties of president of the German Village Society this year. The Society is dedicated to the preservation of the history and character of the vibrant urban neighborhood where we live in downtown Columbus. Without her I would not be who I am.

Later, my good fortune continued when I went to Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and stayed on for internship, residency, and fellowship. During this time, Jeanne finished her doctorate in higher education and student development at American University. In addition to learning to become a physician, my love for government and politics grew while living in the nation’s capital, and those interests ultimately led to my work with the ACR’s Government Affairs Committee.

Like many of you, I have practiced in a variety of settings. After my training, I was recruited to join a large multispecialty group in Columbus, later becoming its vice president for medical affairs. I was most recently in solo practice for more than ten years prior to joining the Columbus Arthritis Center, a growing 10-provider group, in November 2012.

Although I have not been primarily in an academic setting since fellowship, I have enjoyed my faculty appointment at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health (OSU) for more than twenty-five years. There I have meaningful teaching responsibilities and serve on the admissions committee. Students are almost always with me when I see patients.

I am aware of the challenges and opportunities of academic rheumatology because of my involvement at OSU. Further, I have worked side by side with many academicians in a variety of ways as we contributed to the work of the College and addressed the needs of both sides of our great specialty.

And the Year Ahead

Regarding this next year, since we have recently revisited and enhanced our strategic plan, we are taking essential steps to implement that plan. During our strategic planning process, our mission statement was subtly altered by the addition of a terminal exclamation point: Advancing Rheumatology! That punctuation mark indicates the vigor and enthusiasm with which we strive to achieve what is good and right for our members, whatever their discipline and in whichever setting they work.

The goals for the plan state that, by 2016, the ACR will:

  • Develop tools to address evolving payment reforms, increase practice efficiency, and improve quality of care;
  • Increase recognition of the value of the specialty of rheumatology;
  • Strengthen research and training in rheumatology;
  • Provide an information technology infrastructure to deliver ACR initiatives;
  • Reshape volunteerism;
  • Increase its international outreach and presence; and
  • Meet the changing educational needs of our members and stakeholders.

Using reports from the 2020 Task Force and the Blue Ribbon Panel on Academic Rheumatology as well as strategies developed as part of the strategic plan, we have a clear road map to reach these goals.

Beyond these grounding, anchoring directives, forged in calmness and professional cooperation and reflection, we find ourselves beset by great changes for medicine and for our subspecialty that are coming at all of us rapidly. Societal forces far larger than the ACR and far larger than the house of medicine are bearing on us all. These powerful pressures will alter the way we practice and perhaps even change our relationships with our patients. These forces also will change how we are paid for our services. There is no map yet for our navigation through a terrain that has not yet been built. Be assured that we will follow and react to this terrain and, when possible, shape it.

There are many other challenges we face. Our members whose primary focus is in research see mounting threats to the viability of their enterprise from unprecedented cuts in federal support for scientific inquiry created by a Congress that has encumbered research funding by sequester and stagnant or declining National Institutes of Health budgets. These rash decisions have placed in peril the careers of many of our members, especially those who are just beginning to become the investigators who will make the discoveries that will improve the lives of people with “our” diseases.

The only thing more difficult than facing each of these challenges together would be facing them alone.

The ACR has a remarkable array of volunteers and a dedicated staff; together we leverage our resources in strategic ways to help us all meet the challenges and crises that lie ahead. I hope you share my confidence in the leaders of the ACR and your board of directors to help us keep your interests foremost in our work. We are strong because of our unity. Please feel free to e-mail me at flood@rheumatology.org and let us know what you need and how we are doing.

We are said to be the happiest subspecialty in medicine, and we must do all we can to continue our bliss!


Dr. Flood is a rheumatologist at the Columbus Arthritis Center and adjunct associate professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health, both in Columbus. Contact him at flood@rheumatology.org.

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