Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.—Alexander Graham Bell
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Explore This IssueAugust 2009
A recurring theme in my previous columns has been the importance of working together as a specialty and the fact that this organization has a stronger voice because it represents such a diverse group of rheumatology professionals. Another example of our strength in diversity is the alliance between the ACR and the ACR Research and Education Foundation (REF). REF President Leslie J. Crofford, MD, and I are co-writing this column about the relationship between our organizations because we believe that this strong partnership is fundamental to realizing our shared vision of advancing the rheumatology professions.
As the economics of medicine become increasingly challenging, and in the context of impending healthcare reform, the ACR recognizes the importance of sharply maintaining our focus on advocacy, practice, quality of care, and education. At the same time, data collected by the ACR demonstrate that our future holds significant challenges in the areas of the workforce, training, and research. To ensure the future of our specialty we must continue to develop vibrant educators and successful researchers in academic settings in order to attract the best and the brightest students and residents to our specialty. Our success in this endeavor will benefit our members and our patients. The strong relationship between the ACR and the REF allows the ACR to maintain its focus on the urgent matters of today, while simultaneously building our future through its alliance with REF.
As the REF continues to evolve and mature, it is important to emphasize that it exists for the sole purpose of supporting the mission and goals of the ACR. Because of this, leaders from each organization serve on the boards and executive committees of the other.
Long History of Cooperation
The ACR is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and the REF will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2010. For almost one-third of the ACR’s existence, the two organizations have had a mutually reinforcing relationship. The REF was created by the ACR. By 1985, ACR leaders recognized that the goals of other funding agencies did not optimally serve the needs of rheumatology professionals. Recognizing its responsibility to promote and advance its membership, the ACR created a funding agency that existed to specifically support the recruitment, training, and career development of rheumatologists and rheumatology investigators. At its inception, there were few staff and little money to provide awards to achieve REF goals. From its inception through the year 2000, the REF funded rheumatology research at a level of approximately $500,000 per year. During this time, the REF increased its focus on grants that support fellows in order to respond to the decrease in rheumatology fellow applicants.