On Feb. 13, the ACR co-sponsored Arthritis 101, its biennial arthritis advocacy lunch briefing at the U.S. Capitol, highlighting the disproportionate impact of rheumatic disease on active members of the armed forces and veterans. The event, co-sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation (AF), is part of the ACR’s effort to support inclusion of $20 million in dedicated funding for arthritis-focused medical research in the Department of Defense (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) budget.
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Panelist Colin Edgerton, MD, FACP, RhMSUS
One of the event’s three panelists, Colin C. Edgerton, MD, FACP, RhMSUS, chair of the ACR Committee on Rheumatologic Care (CORC), says he wanted to help educate lawmakers about the impact of arthritis on service members and veterans, such as the men and women he treated as rheumatology service chief at Eisenhower Army Medical Center from 2006–2013.
“Arthritis is the No. 1 cause of disability among U.S. veterans and the second leading cause1 of medical discharge from the U.S. Army. As such, arthritis erodes the readiness of military units and cuts short promising careers,” says Dr. Edgerton, who is now in private practice in North Charleston, S.C.
“DoD-funded arthritis research has a positive track record in the U.S. military. The Fort Campbell [Ky.] disease-prevention laboratory successfully implemented an injury prevention program in a U.S. Army light infantry division with a high rate of deployments,” he continues. “With dedicated research dollars from the existing DoD CDMRP, longitudinally stable programs, such as these, could focus on supporting war-fighting units in preventing arthritis and improving readiness.”
‘I was acutely aware of the missed opportunities. Their arthritis could have been prevented or the damage delayed.’ —Colin C. Edgerton, MD, CORC Chair
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in three veterans has arthritis compared with one in four U.S. adults. As an Army rheumatologist, Dr. Edgerton was responsible for evaluating soldiers who were being medically discharged due to their arthritis symptoms, joint damage and disability.
“I was acutely aware of the missed opportunities. Their arthritis could have been prevented or the damage delayed,” says Dr. Edgerton, who also noticed high arthritis prevalence among retired veterans in his care, something he connected to elements of their military service. “While deployed to Iraq with an infantry unit, I recognized the enormous physical strains experienced by our nation’s heroes, and I felt that we owed them our best efforts in preventing and caring for their injuries.”