The ACR–Indian Rheumatology Association (IRA) International Fellows Exchange Program was developed in 2016 to foster scientific collaboration between members of the ACR and junior rheumatologists representing the IRA. I was lucky enough to be selected to participate in this exchange initiative, and I can’t thank these two organizations enough for working together to provide this amazing opportunity.
I trained in rheumatology at the Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research, Kolkata, India, for three years, from 2015 to 2018. I learned about this exchange program toward the end of my fellowship program from my mentor, Prof. Alakendu Ghosh, who on behalf of the IRA, encouraged me to submit my curriculum vitae.
Upon acceptance, I learned I would travel to Chicago for a month from September–October 2018 to do a rotation in the rheumatology section at the University of Chicago, and then attend and present an abstract at the 2018 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting. I had never been to the U.S. before, and I quickly started preparing for my month abroad.
Experience in Chicago
As I pen my experience, I would like to begin by thanking my mentor, Anisha Dua, MD, MPH, for making me feel at home and ensuring I always felt like a part of the team. During my month exchange at the University of Chicago I spent time on the inpatient consult service, in the adult outpatient clinic and, because of my interest in juvenile arthritis, in the outpatient pediatric rheumatology clinic.
I was able to work with diverse attending physicians in the section and was impressed by the approach of the entire healthcare team toward patients and their families. I witnessed how the physicians would patiently listen to their patients’ concerns and how every aspect of diseases and management plans would be explained to the patients. I had the opportunity to discuss each patient with the faculty and fellows, and I learned a lot from these dialogues.
A unique aspect of the rheumatology experience at the University of Chicago was the subspecialty-focused clinics. I spent time focusing on vasculitis patients with Dr. Dua, on lupus patients with Kichul Ko, MD, and on myositis patients with James J. Curran, MD. These focused clinics gave me the opportunity to delve into nuances of specific disease states and management options.
Afternoon consultations were not only interesting, but also a bit of a challenge, having to deal with difficult cases referred from different departments.
I was surprised by the amount of severe sarcoidosis and complicated gout I encountered during the rotation. I had hands-on experience learning to use polarizing microscopy to look for crystals in synovial fluid, which was a new experience for me. On the whole, my academic experience was truly exciting.
Chicago is a beautiful city, with beautiful people. It is the only city in the U.S. that I have seen, so I have no point of comparison. I went almost everywhere possible in Chicago: the Art Institute, the Field and Science Museums, the Shedd Aquarium and Lincoln Park Zoo. The Architectural River Cruise was also exciting, although a little chilly. I was able to celebrate the Durga Puja, which is an important Bengali festival. I went to the Vedanta Vivekananda Society in Lemont, Ill. The Bengali students at the University of Chicago also arranged a Durga Puja celebration in the city, and I was able to attend that as well. I was happy to celebrate even though I was away from home.