To the Members of the American College of Rheumatology,
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Explore This IssueNovember 2020
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I had the honor and privilege of becoming the ACR’s 83rd president during the annual meeting in Atlanta in November 2019. My aspirations for the year were ambitious, filled with hopes of leading the ACR and the field of rheumatology forward in many new and bold initiatives. While carefully developing those plans, I had no idea the world would change overnight. To say that what has occurred in 2020 was unexpected would hardly do justice to the disruption, the danger and the isolation caused by SARS-CoV-2. Instead of implementing a set of plans to address the known threats to our field, we jumped together into the unknown.
This year, the ACR rapidly transitioned its resources and attention to provide our members with information and guidance, in real time, to address the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the practice of medicine. With the help of the ACR Executive Committee and Board of Directors, we implemented five task forces specific to issues brought about by COVID-19. Our volunteer leaders rose to the challenge. Clinical guidance documents were written and published for adult and pediatric patients with rheumatic diseases. Practice and advocacy resources were developed, including approaches to drug shortages, support for telehealth, information about federal stimulus relief aid and guidance for infusion therapies. Task force members worked to help define and provide guidance on the management of a new multi-system inflammatory condition in children in the setting of COVID-19. And we addressed shortages of hydroxychloroquine, followed by unexpected cardiac toxicities and deaths from the use of this drug in the setting of hospitalized patients with COVID-19, raising questions about its use in our patients independent of this disease. At the ACR, we are continuing to work to provide further insights into these issues, as well as to provide up-to-date information on the development of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2. And yet, we worried that it would never be enough.
COVID-19 was not the only thing keeping us awake at night. We were deeply saddened in May by the senseless death of George Floyd and by the racial unrest occurring in our nation. In June, the board approved a pledge for the ACR to be a leader for inclusion and change for our members, our trainees, our staff and our patients. Two diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts have since been launched to fulfill this pledge: a DEI Task Force to address the ACR as an organization for our volunteers and members, and a staff-led Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and ACTION (IDEA) Task Force to provide a more inclusive and equitable workplace.
The ACR also redesigned its already planned, in-person annual meeting to produce its first, fully virtual meeting. This required our Annual Meeting Planning Committee volunteers and staff to pivot to an all-virtual platform, thus bringing to life the PIVOT Task Force. By the time you read this letter, this meeting will have taken place, and we sincerely hope you found it educational and enlightening. This virtual meeting provided five days of educational content and presentations by key expert leaders from around the world, including Eric Rubin, MD, PhD, editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, and our own ACR Master, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. And no content need be missed, because recordings will be available through March 2021.
We have given all of this our best effort. The ACR volunteer leadership, including the Executive Committee, Board of Directors, committee chairs and task force members, along with ACR staff, were united this year to better serve our members and to make the ACR a stronger and more responsive organization, not only during this pandemic, but into the future as well. I want to thank each and every one of you. Although we have much work ahead of us, we enter this next phase of the pandemic with a rekindled energy, knowing we have pulled together as a specialty. I have never been more proud to be a rheumatologist.