Joan Von Feldt, MD, Named a PANLAR Master
On Aug. 12, 2021, the Pan American League of Associations for Rheumatology (PANLAR) named Joan Von Feldt, MD, MSEd, FACR, FACP, MACR, a PANLAR Master. Dr. Von Feldt, a past president of the ACR (2015–16) and an emeritus professor of medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia—where she spent the majority of her career—has been involved with PANLAR for more than 16 years.
“My work with PANLAR has been intertwined with my work with the ACR, but my direct work actually started with a call from the late Luis R. Espinosa, MD, asking me to join the International League of Associations for Rheumatology [ILAR],” says Dr. Von Feldt. That was in 2005, she recalls. Later, she served as secretary general of ILAR, helping that organization rewrite its bylaws to become an umbrella organization that includes PANLAR.
Another call from Dr. Espinosa convinced her to become the PANLAR treasurer (2010–2014). Dr. Espinosa, who was Peruvian, knew that Dr. Von Feldt would be a good fit for the Pan-American organization. The two had been colleagues on the Rheumatology Specialty Board of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and he knew of Dr. Von Feldt’s Hispanic heritage: her mother was from Guatemala, and she is bilingual, with Spanish her first language.
When she became the PANLAR treasurer, Dr. Von Feldt learned from the Executive Committee that the organization was not benefiting from profits obtained from their meetings. Each of its member countries levied different taxes, depleting the organization’s bottom line. Working with ACR colleagues, including former Executive Vice President Mark Andrejeski, she proposed incorporating PANLAR in the U.S. as a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation.
Dr. Von Feldt recalls that many Latin American members of PANLAR resisted this move, concerned that PANLAR would become an ACR subsidiary. Professor Bernardo Pons-Estel, MD, of the Regional Center for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Diseases and the Cardiovascular Institute of Rosario, Argentina, and the main coordinator of the Latin American Group for Study of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (GLADEL) emphasized that PANLAR needed to preserve funds earned from country and regional meetings. He supplied the final justification for incorporating in the U.S.
Since PANLAR incorporated in 2013, the organization has blossomed. Dr. Von Feldt says, “Profits have been invested in study groups and research grants for young investigators, and it has been wonderful to observe PANLAR’s growth.”
Dr. Von Feldt received her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut, Storrs, and her medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. She completed her fellowship in rheumatology and also received a Master of Science in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. She