VERA was launched in July 2018 and runs through June 2019. It is meant to be a pilot project in its first year. Dr. Shmerling and Dr. Fraenkel distributed a call for Letters of Interest to the ACR membership in August 2018 to help build a task force of potential volunteers.
“The VERA task force includes several early-career rheumatologists who will help shape the goals and implementation of this project,” says Dr. Shmerling. “Over time, we hope to attract many rheumatology trainees, who can provide a vital perspective about how to reach out to the ACR membership and connect with community organizations, practices and clinics.” VERA may provide an opportunity for trainees to develop more experience, and for students to shadow experienced rheumatologists as they provide care.
“Many trainees have had recent experiences in medical school or residency providing care in free clinics or in other countries where resources are scarce,” says Dr. Shmerling. “Based on these experiences, they can inspire and encourage others to get involved in VERA. We hope to become a clearinghouse for volunteer opportunities for those at any level of training. It’s particularly important to engage those at the beginning of their careers, because volunteering in this way can become a ‘good habit’ that’s hard to break.”