Shervin Assassi, MD, MS, was the child of two physicians. His mother practiced obstetrics, and his father was a trauma surgeon. It gave him an appreciation for the hard work that goes into medicine and a fascination for joints. He developed an interest in immunology while in medical school.
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“It was natural for me to become a rheumatologist,” says Dr. Assassi, who is now an associate professor of rheumatology and clinical immunogenetics at McGovern School of Medicine at the University of Texas, and the newest chair of the ACR Committee on Journal Publications.
Dr. Assassi co-directs the Scleroderma Program at McGovern and has been involved with the ACR for several years. Initially, he served on the Committee on Research and still serves on the Annual Meeting Planning Committee. He joined the Committee on Journal Publications in 2018.
“During my clinical training in rheumatology,” says Dr. Assassi, “I also became aware of the limitations of our current knowledge. We often don’t know what triggers the start of rheumatic diseases, and we have an incomplete understanding of the pathogenesis of our diseases. We cannot cure them and are often not good at predicting their course.”
This realization was the primary motivation behind Dr. Assassi’s decision to pursue rheumatic disease research. He credits an ACR Rheumatology Research Foundation Clinical Investigator Fellowship Award with jump-starting his research career.
“While rheumatology as a field has made tremendous progress in recent years, there’s so much more to do to better take care of our patients,” he says.
“I have [had studies] published in Arthritis & Rheumatology and Arthritis Care & Research [in the past] several years, so I have seen the operations of these two excellent journals from the scientific community’s view,” he says. “I really appreciate the work the editors do, and I understand [the] time commitment required to publish these journals. I have a lot of respect for the editorial staff as well.”
Opportunities & Objectives
This year, the ACR published its first open access journal, ACR Open Rheumatology, and Dr. Assassi embraced the opportunity to help with that process, including the selection of its editorial board.
“[The journal] truly addresses an unmet need within our community and will be of great service,” he says.
As committee chair, he looks forward to helping develop new means of communication, particularly via the internet, social media and apps for mobile devices, to reach new and different audiences. In fact, the ACR recently launched a new Twitter account focused solely on the College’s three research journals, using the handle ACR_Journals.
“We want to reach medical students and residents who may be interested in rheumatology, and scientists in other fields who may not receive our journals on a monthly basis in their email inboxes,” says Dr. Assassi. “Ultimately, the objective of all our efforts is to serve ACR and ARP members, the scientific community and patients, in order to improve our care of rheumatic diseases.”
As chair, he also hopes to work with the journals’ editorial boards to improve the availability of raw datasets to other investigators, noting, “Data sharing would be of tremendous benefit to the scientific community since we are often dealing with rare diseases.”
A Personal Note
When he’s not seeing patients, teaching medical students, directing translational research workshops for colleagues or conducting his own research, Dr. Assassi enjoys running, reading (or listening to) books—he is part of a book club—and spending time with his wife and two young boys.
“They keep me busy,” he says.
Kelly April Tyrrell writes about health, science and health policy. She lives in Madison, Wis.