Sometimes it’s hard to get a song out of your head, especially when you can’t recall all the lyrics and struggle to find the words to fill in the blanks. That’s what happened to me when I started to write this column. A song, probably too dated now for many to find particularly compelling, kept playing in my head, distracting me from the words I was trying to write with the words from a song I couldn’t quite remember.
It went something like this: The time for closing books and long last looks must end. … But how do you thank someone who has taken you from crayons to perfume … it isn’t easy, but I’ll try.
The song, “To Sir, with Love,” iconic when it was released in 1967, capped the score of the eponymous movie. It is a song of tribute, expressing gratitude to a remarkable man whose mentorship and leadership transformed the lives of those under his charge.
For us at the ACR, we too must thank a remarkable man to whom we owe so much: Mark Andrejeski, who has served as our executive vice president for more than 30 years. At the end of this month, Mark will be retiring. This column, written in lieu of composing a hit song, is a tribute to Mark on behalf of all of us who have had the honor and privilege of working with him. It is our expression of profound gratitude for all he has done for the College and for our specialty.
But how do we thank someone who has taken us from a fledging society, with 4,000 members, a staff of 20 and Annual Meeting attendance of less than 1,700, to the world’s preeminent rheumatology organization, with more than 100 staff, 9,500 members and 16,000 attendees at the 2018 Annual Meeting? It isn’t easy, but I’ll try. Fortunately, I have help—in fact, the help of giants on whose shoulders I have been allowed to stand.
In 2015, Mark was nominated as an honorary member of the ACR. His nomination was supported by dozens of letters written by our past presidents, whose words create an impressive mosaic of the many ways Mark has guided and shaped the ACR, and by extension, brought our specialty forward.
We can cite his many tangible contributions: the establishment and growth of the Rheumatology Research Foundation, which is now the largest single funding source for rheumatology research; the inclusion within ACR of allied health professionals who now are part of our vibrant Association of Rheumatology Professionals (ARP); the launch of the Rheumatology Informatics System for Effectiveness (RISE) registry, which is now the largest rheumatology registry in the world, with vast potential to improve patient outcomes and advance clinical research through data collected on almost 2 million unique patients so far.