Pediatric rheumatologists are in high demand. In fact, a shortage of pediatric rheumatologists requires more than half of all U.S. children with rheumatic diseases seek care with adult rheumatologists, and this shortage is projected to increase.
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For the past decade, the ACR’s Special Committee on Pediatric Rheumatology has worked to change this by bringing together the top pediatric rheumatologists in the country to explore creative ways to grow the sub-specialty and meet the unique needs of pediatric rheumatologists and their patients.
Jay Mehta, MD, MS, clinical director of the Division of Rheumatology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and incoming chair of the ACR’s Special Committee on Pediatric Rheumatology, is eager to collaborate with his committee members to advance the important work of advocating for the pediatric specialty on behalf of the ACR. He spent the past three years serving on the committee before taking on his new role as chair.
“We have an incredible group of pediatric rheumatologists working together on this committee. My role as chair is to facilitate these people in doing great things for our practice and our patients,” Dr. Mehta says.
Priority No. 1: Exposure
After officially stepping into his position as committee chair in October 2018, Dr. Mehta’s first goal has been to brainstorm with the team and the ACR on the most critical needs of pediatric rheumatologists that the committee can support.
Given the shortage of pediatric rheumatologists in the U.S., the committee’s first goal has been to continue the work of exposing residents and fellows to the pediatric subspecialty.
“When you don’t have a lot of pediatric rheumatologists out there, it’s difficult for fellows to get exposed to this subspecialty,” Dr. Mehta notes.
To change this, the ACR holds an annual Pediatric Rheumatology Residency Program that allows residents interested in pediatric rheumatology, but undecided on their fellowship, to come to the ACR/ARP Annual Meeting to pair with a faculty mentor, engage in professional development education planned by the committee and network with pediatric rheumatologists. This residency program has proved successful, with roughly half of the participants pursuing the pediatric rheumatology specialty. Dr. Mehta and his colleagues are now planning for the residency program’s next class, which will come together later this year.
Joining Forces Within Pediatric Rheumatology
Within and beyond the ACR, Dr. Mehta says pediatric rheumatologists are enthusiastic, driven advocates for their patients. This year, he hopes to bring more of these advocates together by joining efforts with other groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics’ section on rheumatology. “If we can pair up and tackle issues together, each of us can bring ideas [to the table so we can] be that much more effective.”