“I could sail on the Charles River in the morning and wash glassware in the afternoon,” he says. “While in the lab, rheumatology fellows showed me their experiments and really interested me in immunology. So when I entered Harvard College that fall, I took biology and chemistry courses as preparation for studying immunology. These experiences prompted me to attend medical school and pursue a career in academic rheumatology.”
In 1983, Dr. Kay graduated from the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. Subsequently, he completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and then pursued fellowships in rheumatology and immunology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, both in Boston.
Over the past three decades, his research has focused on rheumatic
problems of patients with chronic kidney disease, such as beta-2-microglobulin amyloidosis and gadolinium-induced systemic fibrosis, as well as on rheumatoid arthritis and the spondyloarthropathies. More recently, he’s been involved with the development of biosimilars to treat inflammatory diseases.
In 2018, Dr. Kay received the Distinguished Service Award from the ACR and was awarded honorary membership in EULAR.
Although his background is impressive, so are his caricatures.
“While I’m listening to a lecture, my eyes may wander and look around the room,” he says. “I will notice someone sitting and listening intently to the lecture and am tempted to take a pen and draw. I focus on the essence of what makes them look as they do and try to use as few lines as possible to create an image that is identifiable as that individual.”
Capturing the True Essence
Dr. Kay says his caricatures are always of people he respects and enjoys, and who have impressed him with their personality and intellect. Although caricatures may highlight physical features they’re not especially proud of, he says these drawings are really tributes to them—both consciously and subconsciously. They reflect his positive interactions with them and the privilege of knowing them.
Dr. Kay believes there are strong similarities between drawing and being a rheumatologist, both of which rely on an acute sense of observation. He points to recognizing the pattern of joint involvement in patients with inflammatory arthritis or the characteristic physical findings of patients with systemic autoimmune diseases.
“The ability to observe and focus on key elements is an important skill necessary for both drawing and the practice of rheumatology,” he says. “So the need to focus on facial features when drawing a caricature is similar to focusing on swollen and tender joints or skin rashes when evaluating a patient, which is important for becoming a successful practitioner of the art of rheumatology.”