The size of the rheumatology patient population is projected to increase dramatically over the next decade, and there is an urgent need to recruit and train the next generation of rheumatologists. The ACR Research and Education Foundation (REF) is committed to funding the necessary training and education programs to help combat the negative workforce trend, but it is up to you—today’s academic rheumatologist—to attract and train new clinicians and researchers.
Through interviews with past preceptorship student recipients, the REF discovered that most of the students who participated in a preceptorship program knew very little about rheumatology before they began. Unless they were personally affected by a rheumatic disease, it was a mentor who introduced them to the field and opened their eyes to a specialty that they previously would not have considered.
The REF also found that early exposure, clinical mentors, and clinical rotations are the most important factors that influence fellows when choosing a specialty like rheumatology.
ACR members have the opportunity to mentor students through the REF Preceptorship Program, which is designed to introduce medical students to rheumatology as a possible career path by connecting them with a mentor for a hands-on, real-world learning experience focused on rheumatology. Applications for REF Preceptorship awards are available online now, and are due February 1. Preceptorship opportunities include:
- ACR REF/Abbott Medical Student Clinical Preceptorship: This program introduces medical students to rheumatology by supporting a full-time clinical experience.
- ACR REF/Abbott Medical Student Research Preceptorship: This program introduces medical students to rheumatology by supporting a full-time research experience.
- ACR REF Resident Research Preceptorship: This program introduces residents to the specialty of rheumatology by supporting a full-time research experience.
As ACR past President Neal Birnbaum, MD, said in a “President’s Perspective” (July 2007 TR, p. 4), “It is every rheumatologist’s responsibility to ensure continued growth of the subspecialty and, as a result, the future care of their patients.”