His presidency had some controversy, too. He was the first, and remains the only, physician to serve as president of ARHP. “There was pushback from the allied health professionals that doctors would take over the organization,” he says. “And other physicians warned me I’d destroy my career by aligning myself with non-physicians.” In the end, neither concern became a problem.
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Gail Kershner Riggs, MA, CHES, was ARHP president in 1980–1981. “I worked my way up through the ranks of ARHP,” she says. “Education chair, secretary, vice president and then president.” Ms. Riggs’ distinction is that she was the first ARHP president with rheumatoid arthritis. She thinks some allied health professionals may have gained valuable insights during her term in office. “There were members who expressed concern about whether I could handle all the demands of the position because of my disability. They had no idea what a person with RA could do.”
During her presidency, continuing education units were established for allied health professionals and groundwork was laid for the ARHP journal, Arthritis Care & Research. Her connection to the University of Arizona Arthritis Clinic goes back to its beginnings.
In 1973, the Southwestern Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, under the direction of Ms. Riggs and Dr. Smith, applied for and received an Arthritis Regional Medical Program (RMP) grant from the federal government. As director of education for the RMP, Ms. Riggs was involved in securing one of the first 11 National Institutes of Health Multipurpose Arthritis Center (MAC) grants for the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
The Arizona MAC was a national resource for multicultural, multidisciplinary activities and evolved into the University of Arizona Arthritis Center.
The careers of these three ARHP past presidents have been intertwined for decades, and the University of Arizona College of Medicine continues to enjoy their contributions. Ms. Riggs taught a four-hour class in January, despite her increased disability. Dr. Gall is back as interim director of the clinic he helped found 30 years ago. Dr. Smith is considering retirement. He has thought about it in the past, but with his 90th birthday in April, it may be time.
Ann-Marie Lindstrom is an independent writer and editor based in the Tucson, Ariz., area.