Fifteen volunteers make up the Committee on Research (COR), and they come from diverse backgrounds. “The committee includes representatives from basic research and clinical research, as well as health service researchers, pediatric rheumatologists, and a rheumatology fellow,” explains committee chair E. William St. Clair, MD, professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. “There are members who represent the ARHP, the Arthritis Foundation, and the ACR Research and Education Foundation. We also have a liaison to the [ACR] Government Affairs Committee, and to NIAMS [National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases] and NIAID [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases]. This diverse membership allows us to address research from multiple points of view.”
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“Any member can identify their interest in joining the committee through the ACR Web site,” stresses Dr. St. Clair. “My impression is that we have a lot of potential volunteers out there. There’s a lot of interest in serving on ACR committees.”
The entire COR meets on a regular basis, including two face-to-face meetings each year and several conference calls; its subcommittees may hold additional calls.
At the Helm
Committee Chair Dr. St. Clair volunteered for COR in 2004 and served one year before being appointed its chair. He previously served on ACR’s Annual Scientific Meeting Planning Committee and the Education Committee.
“I have a background in both basic and, primarily, clinical research,” he says, “but I spend most of my time now at the bedside working on studying new therapies for rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.”
During his first year on COR, Dr. St. Clair led an important initiative: “My task during that … year was to help develop a research agenda [for ACR], which would define our research priorities for upcoming years,” he explains. “I convened a working group and we fleshed out a draft of the agenda” in a series of conference calls. After receiving comments from the membership, the ACR board approved the agenda in the fall of 2005 after a public comment phase.
“The fallout is that we’re now faced with developing a strategy for the implementation of that agenda,” says Dr. St. Clair. The final research agenda will shape COR’s focus and tasks for years to come.
The COR agenda lays out research priorities, including etiology of disease, mechanisms of disease, and advances in therapy. It also makes recommendations for future research.