In April 2019, the Rheumatology Association of Nevada (RAN) hosted its fourth annual meeting. “We had the largest-ever number of attendees,” says RAN President Tim Kelly, MD, a rheumatologist in Las Vegas.
Launched in 2016, RAN continues to grow, and Dr. Kelly hopes to see the statewide organization do more.
“We want to expand our presence to rheumatologists in Nevada in particular, and outside the state,” says Dr. Kelly. “We want our meeting to become a known, predictable [event and for] everyone to know the Nevada meeting takes place in late April.”
For Dr. Kelly, that means continuing to offer a meeting that appeals to physicians in Arizona, New Mexico and the surrounding region. At just $50, it offers affordable continuing medical education credits.
“We are also trying to get more fellows at our meetings,” says Dr. Kelly. “We are considering a free night in a hotel and a free meeting. We are interested in having more rheumatologists in Nevada, and we are trying to give exposure to young people in training who want to come to Nevada and practice.”
With a population of 3 million residents, Nevada only has roughly one rheumatologist per 125,000 people. Most rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals are concentrated in Las Vegas and Reno, but Reno has been losing rheumatologists over the past several years, Dr. Kelly says.
In Las Vegas, “all of us [take] four to six months to see new patients,” he says, although he notes that two new rheumatologists recently opened private practices there. “I hope we can attract more.”
Quality Speakers = Meeting Growth
This year, he believes the quality of the speakers at the annual meeting helped draw attendees. They included Leonard Calabrese, DO, a rheumatologist and head of the Clinical Immunology Division at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic; rheumatologist Michelle Petri, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins Medicine Lupus Center, Baltimore; Madelaine Feldman, MD, FACR, a rheumatologist in New Orleans and president of the Coalition of State Rheumatology Organizations; and Vibeke Strand, MD, MACR, FACP, adjunct clinical professor in the Division of Immunology/Rheumatology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, Calif.
The meeting, held over the course of a day at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, included talks on advocacy for patient drug access and transparency and reform for pharmacy benefit managers. Next year, Dr. Kelly says RAN expects to host talks on ethics and pediatric rheumatology.
The organization is also considering extending the meeting to a second half-day, but is working out the additional logistics of doing so.
Not Just a Vegas Group
The board of RAN, which also serves as the planning committee for the annual meeting, continues to grow and now comprises 10 members. Dr. Kelly says the board is also planning an educational dinner in November for interested rheumatologists to gather in a journal club format.
His advice for others looking to build a state rheumatology society? “Get as many people involved as possible,” he says. “Try to build a brand and a predictable, repeatable presence.”
Although Dr. Kelly will join the ranks of past RAN presidents after the April 2020 meeting, passing the torch to current Vice President Susan Knowles, MD, FACP, FACR, he hopes to see the annual meeting eventually double in size. And he’s excited to see Dr. Knowles become president, he says.
“Susan’s from up north. We want to make sure it’s not just a Las Vegas association. It’s been important to us from the onset that we would not just be a Las Vegas group.”
Kelly April Tyrrell writes about health, science and health policy. She lives in Madison, Wis.