Following this same construct, I feel it was a tactical error years ago when many rheumatology charities were lumped under the heading of the Arthritis Foundation (AF). I truly believe the AF has done a remarkable job, especially working under the generic label of “arthritis.” In retrospect, society might have been better served had “rheumatic disease” been the headline cause, as opposed to “arthritis” alone. This would be analogous to the field of neurology specifying individual foundations for its epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy drives as opposed to a single “neuro” foundation.
Explore this issueAugust 2011
It’s not that I don’t have sympathy for all types of arthritis, but I believe the singular “arthritis” title conjures images other than that which we are supporting. I suspect it might be easier to arouse more support for a foundation that also included rheumatic disease, and perhaps end up with more funds to distribute among all of the various types of arthritis. And, importantly, we would be putting the “rheumatic” name front and center in the nation’s conscience.
I hereby propose that we suggest to our dedicated and peripatetic sister organization, the Arthritis Foundation, that it consider extending its official title more specifically to include systemic diseases, hence to become the Arthritis and Rheumatic Disease Foundation. I know I am treading on hallowed ground here, but in the long run, I feel this name enhancement would prove extremely beneficial to this great foundation.
On a final personal note, I would like to add that becoming a rheumatologist was the best career decision I ever made, and I’m extremely proud of the accomplishments of our specialty. Rheumatology is one of the most challenging and sophisticated of all subspecialties of medicine, and is in large part responsible for having unraveled the extreme complexities of the body’s immune system and, in turn, autoimmune rheumatic diseases. We need to share both this complexity and the seriousness of autoimmune disease with society in general and attack the ignorance head on. We owe the public more clarity and respect. There is a thin line between fear mongering and informative counseling and, as a professional society, I feel we have erred too cautiously.
We need to stand up, embrace our profession, and explain its mission better to the public: Namely, that as rheumatologists we do treat “arthritis,” but it’s not our raison d’être. We are here to we treat systemic rheumatic diseases, and the world needs to know it! [Editor’s Note: The ACR will launch a public relations campaign next month to increase awareness and understanding of rheumatology for key decision makers outside of the subspecialty. Look for more on this effort in future issues of The Rheumatologist!]