Rufei Lu, MD/PhD student at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center—Dr. Lu, who already has a PhD in pathology, has personal experience with rheumatic disease. His wife has severe SLE, which emerged at the beginning of their relationship. He quickly realized how devastating rheumatic diseases can be.
“It’s at that moment I realized how devastating rheumatic diseases can be and how much we still don’t know and how limited our current treatment options are for patients suffering from severe rheumatic diseases,” he says. “I have seen many patients with rheumatic diseases while I shadowed my mentor during my PhD years, which enabled me to listen to the stories of patients with different types of rheumatic diseases. I have always been interested in immunology and feel like there is still so much to explore and discover. I am hoping to learn the cutting-edge techniques to study immunology, as well as novel findings that could get us a step closer to the cure. I am particularly interested in the mechanism of diseases and in understanding disease etiology and pathophysiology, especially during the pre-disease period.”
Heather Michalak, occupational therapy student at MUSC—Ms. Michalak participates in a faculty-led research group, is active in student government, volunteers at the CARES clinic and is a volunteer Health Outreach Peer Educator. Both of her parents have osteoarthritis.
At the conference, she says she’ll be most interested in public health, epidemiology, health education and rehabilitation.
“I am excited to attend the conference because I like learning about current research at my own pace,” she says. “I like that I can learn about rheumatic diseases without being in a classroom, and I can choose to focus on the topics that interest me most. I am aware that when I have patients of my own, many will suffer from a rheumatic condition as either a primary or secondary diagnosis. Hence, I want to be more knowledgeable of what that means for their therapeutic treatment in order to couple that properly with their medical treatment.”
Ebony Pollock, occupational therapy student at MUSC—Ms. Pollock has expressed an interest in volunteering at a local shelter in Charleston and in volunteering at the CARES clinic. Her father has rheumatoid arthritis, and Ms. Pollock herself has had RA-like symptoms, although she has not been diagnosed with RA.