Dr. Strand’s close affiliation with Dr. Sharp began in the mid-1990s, when she “pulled him out of retirement” to consult on the leflunomide program with the FDA—“for which his wife has never forgiven me!” she laughs.
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Explore This IssueNovember 2006
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Dr. Sharp came to the FDA “at least twice,” she remembers, to help teach assessment of radiographic damage and change. “I don’t think anyone else could have gone to the FDA and shown them how to read these films other than John, with his very unassuming manner.
“He’s been a wonderful man to work with,” says Dr. Strand. “He really has not only this panache, but clout. And he’s so modest.”
At one point, recalls Dr. Strand, Dr. Sharp tried to “un-name” the Sharp score. While co-writing with her a review paper published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, Dr. Sharp sent back a draft stating the score should simply be referred to as “a composite score” rather than the Total Sharp Score [or its modifications].4
Slowing Down—of a Sort
Now in his 80s, Dr. Sharp admits to a little slowing down, but one could hardly call his current activity level retired. Among other projects, Dr. Sharp has been an active co-chair of an OMERACT group that is working on developing computer-based methods of joint space measurement. “We were both deeply involved in the workshop on repair, and also in preparation of all the scoring for big projects,” says Dr. van der Heijde. “It’s still a pleasure to read [X-rays] with him and to hear his opinions.”
In addition to his work with OMERACT committees, Dr. Sharp continues to attend ACR meetings and has lively communications with researchers around the world. His time while at home in Bainbridge is also full: He and his wife walk, garden, read, and frequently spend time with a nearby son and grandchildren. Dr. Sharp also volunteers with a local Rotary Club and finds time for woodworking.
Asked to characterize his contributions to the field of rheumatology, Dr. Sharp appears reticent to paint his importance too broadly. He compares the method with a once-common attraction at country fairs, where you pay a fee to have someone guess your weight. Even if you win, the prize is worth less than the fee you already paid.
“The point I’m trying to make is that people get pretty good at making estimates like that,” says Dr. Sharp. “Those of us who’ve spent some time looking at X-rays get pretty good at estimating how bad the damage in a particular joint is. One thing that makes it much easier, in trials and in clinical practice, is comparing two or three films over time, looking for change.”