Current ARHP President Afton L. Hassett, PsyD—a clinical psychologist and an associate research scientist in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Michigan—attended her first ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting in 1999.
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Dr. Hassett submitted an abstract to the meeting describing her dissertation research exploring the role of pain and depression in rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. It was accepted, and she soon found herself among thousands of her colleagues crossing the bitterly cold and bustling streets of Boston to attend the premiere scientific meeting in rheumatology.
“I’d never seen anything like it,” she says of the meeting. “Being deeply involved in rheumatology research and seeing so many people doing the same in one place—I was like a kid in a candy store.”
For the next five years, Dr. Hassett thought everything in the ARHP revolved around its Annual Meeting. She would spend each year planning and waiting for the meeting’s arrival, because she thought it was her only opportunity to be exposed to cutting-
edge research, network with colleagues from around the world and ensure her name and research were shared with others.
After those initial years of attending the meeting, Dr. Hassett became more involved in the ARHP, and that is when she saw the organization as far more than just an Annual Meeting. “During a networking lunch chat with Karen Smarr, PhD (past ARHP president),” she says, “for the first time it became apparent to me that there is so much more to ARHP; there are boundless opportunities to learn, engage and benefit professionally and personally.”
Finding Her Place
With a new mindset, Dr. Hassett began taking advantage of all the resources and opportunities for her as a psychologist and researcher in rheumatology (see sidebar for some of Dr. Hassett’s favorite member benefits and ARHP resources).
“It is very easy to get involved,” she says. “By doing so, you meet remarkable people who become collaborators and friends. The more involved I became, the more I learned that our diverse membership allows us to draw from the best expertise across all of rheumatology. For me, that diversity was and is such an added value [of ARHP membership].”
According to Dr. Hassett, the ARHP has a way of identifying people’s unique skill sets and finding opportunities that match those skill sets. Once Dr. Hassett realized she could gain much more from her ARHP membership and how easy it is to get involved, she began accepting opportunities to gain knowledge and build relationships while giving back to the organization.