When the ACR REF recently sent out a call for volunteers for the newly created From the Field speakers’ bureau, Alan W. Friedman, MD, responded right away. “It’s exactly what I’ve been doing all along,” he says. “I want to bring my enthusiasm for the cause to other people.”
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Explore This IssueOctober 2011
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Dr. Friedman’s career bears this out. He began as a researcher, studying T cells as a cellular immunologist. He later taught medical students, residents and rheumatology fellows and received tenure for his accomplishments. When he started his practice at the Medical Clinic of Houston in Houston, Texas, he continued teaching medical students and talking to people about rheumatic diseases.
Dr. Friedman’s experience will help him and other From the Field volunteers speak to patients and families about the latest research advances in rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions where inflammatory arthritis is a major pathology, including the spondyloarthropathies. From the Field speakers will participate in small and informal events designed to stimulate meaningful conversations around the difficulties of living with inflammatory diseases, while offering insight into the importance of proper rheumatologic care and discussing promising research toward finding cures supported through REF programs.
Dr. Friedman was eager to participate, even though his practice keeps him very busy. “I generally start seeing patients at 7 a.m. and stop at around 5:30 p.m. on a good day,” he says. “I see about 18 patients a day.” However, he still finds time to invite medical students into his practice to learn about rheumatology. He says it’s important for them to learn about treating rheumatic diseases, even if they don’t go into rheumatology.
“It’s important for them to know what to look for,” he says. “For example, the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis—with RA, someone can have every joint in their body destroyed, and they could have been saved if they were treated early. Also, students ask tough questions, and it’s an opportunity for both of us to learn.”
Another motivation for Dr. Friedman is that more students will go into rheumatology. “We have to ensure there are enough rheumatologists out there, especially for the baby boomers,” he says.
In addition to his practice and his teaching, Dr. Friedman constantly tours the lecture circuit, speaking to rheumatologists and healthcare providers about rheumatic diseases and treatments. “I gave over 100 talks around the country last year,” he says. But Dr. Friedman understands that From the Field is a unique opportunity to speak to a different type of audience: interested patients and families impacted by rheumatic diseases.