As the term of my presidency at the ACR Research and Education Foundation (REF) comes to an end, it’s a good time to reflect on the past two years. While it’s important to recognize the REF’s milestones and major achievements—and I will do that in a moment—great work is being done every day by rheumatologists, healthcare professionals, and investigators. It is their goal to improve the treatment and care of people impacted by rheumatic disease, and it’s our mission to provide them with the resources to support their efforts.
We sometimes focus on the goals so much that we lose track of why we raise funds for research and training in the first place. Recently, the REF received a letter from a young girl who helped bring it all in focus. I’d like to share a part of it here to remind us why we strive doggedly towards reaching new milestones.
“My name is Madison,” the letter begins. “I love Pokémon and my favorite animal is a fox. My favorite food is chicken soup.”
She goes on to explain that her mother has had rheumatoid arthritis (RA) “for almost two years now and she has been fighting it.” Along with the letter, Madison sent a check. “To get money, I did chores and a friend of my mom’s donated money too,” Madison writes. “I would love it if someone found a cure.”
It is for people like Madison and her mother that we began the Within Our Reach: Finding a Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis campaign. As we announced previously, we exceeded our initial goal when we reached $30,719,054 in funds earlier this year. More than three million of those dollars came directly from patients and families affected by RA who wished to support our work of finding a cure for this disabling disease.
The Within Our Reach campaign has already funded $24.4 million in RA research grants, and our development staff is hard at work on the next phase of this initiative. Ultimately, our goal is to find a cure for RA, but in the meantime the research funded by the REF continues to illuminate new possibilities for improved treatment and care.
At the same time, we have been funding our core awards and grants programs at a record rate. The best way to realize our mission is to ensure that a steady stream of well-trained rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals are joining our ranks to provide the best in medical care and innovative treatments. The article titled “Researcher Looks at Link between Arthritis and Eye Disease” is an excellent demonstration of how the research we fund can ultimately impact patient care.