Last year, Nebraska rheumatologist Marcus Snow, MD, learned a biosimilar bill was up for debate in his state legislature, yet “I had no knowledge of it,” he says.
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Forming the Society
The bill “was something that caught my eye, and I thought there should be a mechanism in place to allow us to disseminate information quickly so our voice can be heard in the future,” says the University of Nebraska Medical Center rheumatologist.
Inspired by this event, as well as conversations he’d had through his involvement in the ACR’s Committee on Rheumatologic Care (CORC) and other colleagues, Dr. Snow decided it was time to create a state rheumatology society.
Dr. Snow emailed all 30 of his rheumatology colleagues in the state and asked whether they would be interested in forming and joining a representative society.
After “robust feedback,” in June 2017, Dr. Snow and seven others convened a conference call to discuss next steps. They held a second call in July, and by October, the Nebraska physicians had conducted their first organizational meeting as the Nebraska Rheumatology Society, attended by roughly half of the state’s practitioners.
There, they helped finalize the society’s bylaws. They had examined bylaws adopted by other state rheumatology societies, personalized them for Nebraska and then drafted a final version that was shared and voted upon via email.
In early February, the society determined the composition of its board, which includes a trainee member.
Determining a Focus
“We’ve talked among ourselves about what our focus should be, and we plan to take that back to our members and let them help decide where we put our efforts,” Dr. Snow says. The society would like to address advocacy issues as appropriate, contribute to growth in the rheumatology specialty and provide educational opportunities for members, which Dr. Snow hopes will ultimately include physicians’ assistants, nurse practitioners, medical students, residents and fellows.
“I think our organization can serve a lot of roles,” Dr. Snow says, noting it has already had conversations with the Rheumatology Society of Iowa and the Rheumatology Association of Minnesota and the Dakotas to explore ways to work together.
Joseph Nahas, MD, a rheumatologist at CHI Health and Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, says that as busy clinicians, he and his colleagues often do not take the time to reach out and share ideas and perspectives with one another. He is excited for the opportunity the society offers to, “connect and share ideas and thoughts on the issues facing rheumatology and our patients today.”
He adds, “I think creating this avenue for a network will not only strengthen each of our own practices, but also the care for the patients in the state as a whole.”
Establishing a Network
To get the process started, Dr. Snow reached out to his contacts within the ACR for advice. Soon, he had more names than he could manage. The most pivotal suggestion he received was to partner with the Nebraska Medical Association.
“It has allowed all the technical aspects of forming a society to be dealt with by people who deal with those kinds of things,” he says. The association charges the rheumatology organization a small fee, covered by membership dues.
The biosimilar bill in Nebraska passed before the rheumatology society mobilized, and it’s one the organization is happy with, but Dr. Snow is grateful to now have a formal network in place to help engage the rheumatology community.
“The legislature may be debating something at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday, and it can be tough to get out and [participate in the debate] if you’re in clinic,” he says. But now, “we can pool our resources to get someone there, to find people to testify, to communicate among ourselves.”
Kelly April Tyrrell writes about health, science and health policy. She lives in Madison, Wis.