A patient Zachary Wallace, MD, MSc, met during his third year of medical school at Georgetown University helped lead him to his passion for rheumatology. He was completing a clinical rotation in medicine, and the experience made rheumatologic disease tangible for him.
“She had lupus, and I became interested in her case,” he says. Later, while completing a rheumatology rotation, Dr. Wallace became “completely hooked on caring for these complex patients and appreciated the close relationship rheumatology patients and providers had.”
Today, Dr. Wallace, a rheumatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, is the newly installed chair of RheumPAC, the nonpartisan political action committee of the ACR that works to support national political candidates and leaders who act in the best interest of rheumatologists and their patients.
“I am excited to take over the committee and continue the great work done by the chairs who served before me,” Dr. Wallace says. “I hope to increase participation by ACR members in RheumPAC, provide more education about what RheumPAC is and help people understand that it goes hand in hand with advocacy.”
How RheumPAC Works & Recent Successes
As a nonprofit, the ACR cannot donate money to politicians or their campaigns, so RheumPAC was established a decade ago to “give us a way to collect donations from members of the College for candidates or members of Congress who represent and advocate on behalf of rheumatology and are in a position to make the changes we are looking for on the Hill,” Dr. Wallace explains. “It’s the way our political system works. … It takes a little bit of investment in people’s campaigns to get our voices heard, for our issues to come to the forefront, to talk about why rheumatology matters, what the issues are and why what patients face matters.”
In recent years, in collaboration with the ACR’s Government Affairs Committee (GAC)—on which Dr. Wallace has also served—RheumPAC has helped ensure success in delaying ICD-10 implementation, excluding Medicare Part B drugs from MIPS adjustments, ending the Medicare physical therapy cap, increasing the National Institutes of Health budget and funding the Lupus Research Program of the Department of Defense.
“Rheumatology is a smaller specialty, but our voice has been loud,” says Dr. Wallace. “That would not be possible without the financial support to get our voices heard.”
Objectives & Interests
Dr. Wallace hopes to continue building on those successes and to engage younger rheumatologists and fellows in RheumPAC, and in advocacy. He also hopes to deliver more targeted messages about RheumPAC’s efforts. For example, rheumatologist researchers might hear more about ways RheumPAC and the GAC have worked to increase funding available for research.