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Explore This IssueNovember 2007
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When he walks to the podium in Boston for his first official duties, incoming ACR President David A. Fox, MD, will be treading familiar turf. The three-year prelude to presidency – when candidates serve as secretary-treasurer, vice president, and then president-elect – is designed to educate future officers about the full spectrum of the ACR’s membership needs and issues. Dr. Fox found this lead-in period a valuable opportunity to work with and learn from senior staff members and fellow officers. “ACR structures its officers group to include a mixture of those in academics and private practice, so that we complement each other’s strengths and learn from each other,” he says.
Dr. Fox is professor in the department of internal medicine, division chief of rheumatology, and director of the Rheumatic Disease Core Center at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor. He believes that attention to the needs of both academic and private practice members (the latter account for approximately 70% of the membership) has helped the ACR avoid the clinical-research division that occurs in other professional societies.
“The linkage between the practice side and the research side has so much to offer everybody,” he says. “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I think that’s what we see in our College, which is so valuable, is almost unique about rheumatology compared to other specialties in medicine, and is what we are very committed to preserving.”
Challenges in the New Year
Dr. Fox inherits a full agenda as incoming president. Topping that list is maintaining excellence in the ACR’s ongoing core activities (annual scientific meetings, journals, and periodicals) while responding to members’ needs.
The latter increasingly involves participation in public policy. It’s a challenge, Dr. Fox admits, to stay abreast of the many public policy arenas in which the ACR is now active. Fortunately, the executive officers have help: ACR senior staff and the Washington, D.C.–based lobbying firm Patton Boggs stay tuned to federal legislation and help ACR leaders prioritize their lobbying efforts. In 2008, the ACR will likely be involved in lobbying Capitol Hill about the sustainable growth rate; the Arthritis Prevention, Control, and Cure Act of 2007; and the NIH research budget. Dr. Fox notes that the organization now understands that “we have to create awareness among legislators, and we have to repeatedly visit Capitol Hill.”
Keep Rheum In the Game
Research funding for arthritis has declined in the last four years. “In terms of real dollars, we are probably just about back to where we were about 10 years ago,” Dr. Fox says. Vying for a share of the NIH budget will likely get even more difficult. That’s why the ACR Research and Education Foundation’s (REF) “Within Our Reach” RA research fundraising campaign, under the leadership of James O’Dell, MD, has been timely – not only because of the money but because of the awareness it has raised. “What the public as a whole perhaps does not appreciate is that arthritis is a leading cause of disability in the United States,” says Dr. Fox. “Its impact, economically and health-wise, is way beyond the proportion of the research budget that goes to arthritis.”