The rheumatology patient population is projected to increase dramatically over the next decade, and there is an urgent need to recruit and train the next generation of rheumatologists.
The ACR Research and Education Foundation (REF) is committed to funding the necessary training and education programs to help combat the negative workforce trend, but it is up to you—today’s rheumatologist—to attract and train new clinicians and researchers.
Through interviews with past REF preceptorship student recipients, the REF discovered that most of the students who participated in a preceptorship program knew very little about rheumatology before they began. Unless they were personally affected by a rheumatic disease, it was a mentor who introduced them to the field and opened their eyes to a specialty that they previously would not have considered.
This is something that ACR past president, Herbert Kaplan, MD, knows a lot about. When he started practice in 1963, rheumatology was not yet an accredited subspecialty. To receive training, Dr. Kaplan turned to mentor Charley Smyth, MD, one of a small group of physicians who founded the subspecialty of rheumatology. “I received on-the-job training while starting my community practice in Denver. Even though I had no formal fellowship, in 1972 I took the first board examination based on my training with Dr. Smyth,” says Dr. Kaplan.
When he started the Denver Arthritis Clinic with Walter Briney, MD, and Michael Schiff, MD, in 1976, Dr. Kaplan already knew the importance of mentorship and exposing students to rheumatology early in their careers. He partnered with the University of Colorado, Denver, School of Medicine to bring trainees into his community practice.
Throughout his career, Dr. Kaplan continued to speak out about the importance of other community rheumatologists exposing trainees to the specialty. “When I was ACR president in 1993, one of my main goals was to get students interested in rheumatology. Get them early, and we can expose them to the exciting opportunities available in our specialty,” says Dr. Kaplan. Although he is now retired, Dr. Kaplan continues to teach third-year students at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center how to take a history and perform a rheumatology joint examination.
Through the REF’s preceptorship program, you can apply for the Medical Student Clinical Preceptorship, which offers the opportunity to bring students into your practice and get them excited about rheumatology. If you are interested in helping mold future rheumatologists, the REF can help you locate a student in your area who may be looking for this type of mentorship.