One aspect of the Rheumatology Research Foundation’s work is recruiting more people into the field, and it starts by building interest in rheumatology among the best and brightest medical and graduate students. The Foundation is fueling the pipeline of rheumatology professionals by supporting students, residents and fellows in a number of ways, such as with the Preceptorship Program.
Explore this issueFebruary 2019
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Physician-teachers are in a unique position to improve the future of healthcare by inspiring the next generation of physicians, patient advocates, political activists and leaders. Preceptors inspire students to go into rheumatology—or at least help them better understand the field and develop skills they will use in the specialty. Recognizing this opportunity, the Foundation created a partial-salary grant system for medical students and fellows following the 2005 Workforce Study.
“Rheumatology doesn’t have a big medical school presence. Students get more cardiology, gastroenterology, pulmonary and hematology/oncology exposure, but preceptorships encourage students and residents to learn more about rheumatology and pursue careers in the field by supporting a one-on-one, real-world learning experience,” says Marcy Bolster, MD, director of the Rheumatology Fellowship Training Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
The success of the Preceptorship Program is demonstrated by an increase in the number of fellows who, following participation, decide to pursue a career in rheumatology. As a preceptor, Dr. Bolster experienced this success firsthand when her mentee, Brandi Stevens, MD, MS, University of Indiana Medical School, Indianapolis, elected to pursue pediatric rheumatology after receiving a preceptorship from the Foundation.
Dr. Stevens initially developed an interest in rheumatology during college immunology coursework. She went on to receive a Medical Student Preceptorship Award from the Foundation in her first year of medical school, which allowed her to gain clinical experience working with both adult and pediatric rheumatologists.
“Dr. Bolster helped fuel my interest in rheumatology and served as a role model for the type of physician I wanted to be. She played a tremendous role in my decision to become a pediatric rheumatologist,” says Dr. Stevens.
In her third year of medical school, Dr. Stevens was accepted into a competitive program funded by the National Institutes of Health to earn a predoctoral Master of Science in Clinical Research. Since that time, Dr. Stevens has continued research in the field of environmental autoimmunity.
“The Rheumatology Research Foundation was a wonderful resource early in my career, and it continues to provide opportunities to support my career in pediatric rheumatology. It’s certainly a tremendous resource,” says Dr. Stevens.
The Preceptorship Program isn’t the only way the Foundation tackles access-to-care issues. The Foundation also has a scholarship program for medical students from parts of the country underserved by rheumatology professionals to attend the ACR/ARP Annual Meeting. This helps expose them to the field and encourages them to pursue a career in rheumatology.
Visit www.rheumresearch.org to learn more about the Foundation’s Awards and Grants portfolio.