Communication is invaluable when it comes to spreading the word about many different aspects of care for rheumatic diseases, whether it’s evidence-based patient education support for rheumatologists, information on access to medication options for patients or helping educate the public about the practice of rheumatology. That’s according to Kelly Weselman, MD, FACR, a rheumatologist with the WellStar Health System in Atlanta, and chair of the ACR’s Committee on Marketing & Communications (CMC).
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With Dr. Weselman at the helm, the committee oversees College communications through such vehicles as The Rheumatologist, digital communications and patient education resources, as well as external communications to spread knowledge to the public about rheumatic diseases and care. One important way to spread this knowledge is through the ACR’s annual Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month (RDAM), which occurs each September as part of the ACR’s Simple Tasks public awareness campaign. RDAM continues to evolve and reach the public in new ways.
In 2017, Dr. Weselman and members of the committee recruited sports personality Terry Bradshaw to serve as the face of RDAM. His message focused on raising awareness that sore joints can be a symptom of rheumatic disease that affects many people, not just athletes.
“By Mr. Bradshaw sharing his own experiences with rheumatoid arthritis and through other RDAM activities, such as state proclamations recognizing September for [rheumatic disease] awareness, patients and family members of those living with rheumatic disease had a chance to educate their own communities about the challenges they face and the care and research breakthroughs that are helping them,” Dr. Weselman explains.
In her sixth year of working on the CMC, Dr. Weselman is encouraged to see RDAM and other ACR outreach activities driving an increase in public awareness of rheumatology practice in her travels across the country—awareness she sees as invaluable to patients finding access to care.
Other recent accomplishments of the committee include:
- Expanding the digital patient education resources the ACR provides for members to share with their patients on specific rheumatic diseases and treatments to include seven new therapy pages;
- Expanding the ACR’s Simple Tasks public awareness campaign to include outreach efforts that educate the broader public about issues affecting rheumatology patients, as well as grassroots campaigns that give patients a vehicle to make their voices heard; and
- Launching a committee spotlight for the ACR’s website to showcase the projects, priorities and achievements of ACR volunteer committees.
This month, Dr. Weselman is leading committee members in shaping plans for RDAM 2018, building on the public knowledge focus with new ways to empower rheumatologists and their patients to optimize care through greater awareness.