This experience got him interested in arthritis and rheumatology, and he wrote two articles about using colchicine in sarcoid arthritis, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1960 and 1963.
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Explore This IssueApril 2018
After getting out of the army in the early 1960s, Dr. Kaplan moved his family to Denver and started a rheumatology practice in the office of a general internist. At that time, the University of Colorado was the site for one of only nine rheumatology training programs in the country, although it was yet to be recognized as an official subspecialty of internal medicine. He diligently made rounds every Tuesday for several years with Charley Smyth, MD, whom he considers one of the founders of rheumatology and the one person who had the greatest influence in his career. Dr. Kaplan took the very first rheumatology board exam in 1974.
Dr. Kaplan eventually joined the voluntary faculty at the University of Colorado in Denver, where he received numerous teaching awards. He was the first Distinguished Clinical Professor of Medicine at the university. He also started the Denver Arthritis Clinic with Walter Briney, MD. They instituted a multidisciplinary approach in their clinic, and hired and trained physical therapists, occupational therapists and nurses who were all interested in learning how to care for arthritis patients.
Having a busy clinical practice and teaching responsibilities did not stop Dr. Kaplan from getting involved with the American Rheumatism Association (ARA), the predecessor of the ACR. I asked what motivated him to serve.
He said, “I believed in rheumatology, then a young and poorly recognized subspecialty of internal medicine, which should get more widespread recognition. It is a travesty to not be at the same level of importance as cardiology or pulmonology.” It was not a surprise that his earliest involvement was to be the ARA representative to the American Society of Internal Medicine, focusing his efforts on having rheumatology considered a subspecialty of internal medicine. Through the years, he took on broader responsibilities and more important leadership positions within the ACR, culminating in his induction as the president of the College in 1993–1994.
In parallel, Dr. Kaplan was also active with the Arthritis Foundation, becoming chair of the Board of Directors of the Rocky Mountain Chapter from 1988–1990 and fostering connections with the ACR.
When Dr. Kaplan became the ACR president, Mark Andrejeski, current executive vice president of the ACR, asked him what his goal was for his one-year tenure. Dr. Kaplan clearly remembers his response, “I wanted to facilitate participation of practicing physician members to attain leadership in the College.”