At the ACR, I look forward to working across the aisle, so to speak, so that symbiosis of the two continues to occur within the organization.
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Explore This IssueDecember 2021
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TR: Why did you finally decide to put your focus on rheumatology?
Dr. Saag: I was already interested in the musculoskeletal system through a previous interest in orthopedics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, but I got interested in rheumatology, as many people do, through a really good mentor during my residency. That was Joseph Golbus, MD, who had just finished his rheumatology fellowship and was the person people called when they needed an opinion about a difficult patient. That gave me an appreciation for—and fascination with—a discipline where there were complicated problems, a lot of unknowns and really interesting pathophysiology. I also liked rheumatology because of the continuity and relationships with patients over the long term.
During my fellowship, my interest was strengthened at the University of Iowa—again by really great mentors and role models, such as John Cowdery, MD, Stan Naides, MD, and Bob Ashman, MD.
Interestingly, although, my division was very much about clinical care and fundamental science, I was really the only clinical investigator, so I was pretty much on my own. On the positive side, that forced me to seek out scientists outside the division, including people in public health and general medicine, such as Elizabeth Chrischilles, PhD, Bob Wallace, MD, Dick Wenzel, MD, and Brad Doebbeling, MD, to mentor me in my research development. It was not only a lot of fun to work with them, but it strengthened my interest in academics and also forced me to see the advantages of working in an interdisciplinary way.
That has been useful in the ACR in terms of building bridges between people who may think about things in dissimilar ways, so we can collectively make a bigger difference.
In 1998, a great opportunity came along. Robert Kimberly, MD, and Bill Koopman, MD, strongly encouraged me to become a practicing physician with UAB Medicine and a faculty researcher in the UAB School of Medicine, and I have been at UAB ever since. UAB has been a great academic home, and despite our Midwestern roots, my wife and family have very much enjoyed our 23 years in Birmingham.
TR: You have served as a member and chair of the ACR Committee on Quality of Care and as chair of the Committee on Corporate Relations. What drove you to begin volunteering with the ACR?