From pediatric care to fellowship training, rheumatologists and people with rheumatic diseases face challenges on many fronts. There are not enough pediatric rheumatologists to reach all children with rheumatologic diseases. And for children with access to pediatric rheumatology care, patients who aren’t supported in their transition to adult care are getting sicker. Healthcare disparities, including social, economic and environmental disadvantages, are leaving some rheumatology patients without proper care. In rheumatology fellowship training programs, gaps in education have left some rheumatologists in need of a deeper understanding of basic science and clinical research methodologies.
On Aug. 21, the Rheumatology Research Foundation hosted the 2020 Summer Research Series . During the virtual event, four rheumatologists investigating solutions to address these practice challenges provided updates on their research, which is funded through the Foundation.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virtual series replaced the Foundation’s annual Investigator’s Meeting, which provides Foundation-funded researchers an opportunity to learn about recent findings and research projects. The Foundation is the largest private funding source for rheumatology research and training in the U.S. It supports rheumatologists investigating practice challenges and rheumatic diseases develop new strategies to improve rheumatology training, practice and care.
Here’s a look at what each of these investigators presented and shared with The Rheumatologist about their research progress and their next steps.
A Career in Pediatric Rheumatology: Research Informs Practice
Little is known about how early career pediatric rheumatologists decide on their specialty. But the general trend is that pediatric rheumatology fellowship positions commonly go unfilled. Another fact: “We know early career pediatric rheumatologists often suffer from a lack of mentors and local role models. It’s a very small field, and many people are one of two or three pediatric rheumatologists at their institution,” says Jay Mehta, MD, MSEd, an attending rheumatologist, associate director for the Pediatrics Residency Program and director of the Pediatric Rheumatology Fellowship Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as associate professor of clinical pediatrics, Perelman School of Medicine, the University of Pennsylvania.
To better understand what influences the early career move to pediatric rheumatology, and how early career rheumatologists navigate transitions, Dr. Mehta designed a study with two primary aims:
- To understand the factors influencing pediatric residents to specialize in rheumatology to inform recruitment strategies for medical students and residents; and
- To characterize how fellow and early attending physicians navigate early career transitions to create a framework for counseling early career pediatric rheumatologists.
Dr. Mehta and colleagues are currently in the third year of this study. For the first aim, the team followed 14 of the 25 residents accepted in 2018 to the ACR Pediatrics Residents Program, conducting longitudinal interviews focused on their specialty decision-making process, perception of rheumatology, mentorship and career goals.1