In October 2022 at its annual Commitment to a Cure Gala, the metropolitan Washington, D.C., chapter of the Arthritis Foundation presented its medical honoree, Herbert S.B. Baraf, MD, FACP, MACR, with the inaugural eponymous Dr. Herbert S.B. Baraf Award for Excellence in Arthritis Care. The founding member and former managing partner of Arthritis and Rheumatism Associates, PC (ARA), Dr. Baraf says the award was a surprise to him.
Reflecting on his nearly five decade-long career—encompassing the establishment of a thriving private practice, academic appointments and participation in more than 400 clinical research trials—Dr. Baraf notes that his enthusiasm for medicine never waned from the moment he chose to pursue a medical career. After witnessing a fatal motorcycle accident, he eschewed family expectations that he would pursue a career in law. In his sophomore year of college, he changed his focus to pre-med and never looked back: “My enthusiasm for medicine deepened the more I immersed myself in training,” he says.
Dr. Baraf obtained his medical degree at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University College of Medicine, New York; completed his internship and residency at The George Washington University Hospital, Washington, D.C.; and followed that with a rheumatology fellowship at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.
Early in his time in private practice, Dr. Baraf recognized that the ability to deliver high-quality patient care meant the practice itself must be kept healthy. “I entered a very competitive marketplace. I valued every patient encounter and saw each relationship as a brick in the edifice of the building of the practice,” he says.
In addition to providing attentive and expert medical care, Dr. Baraf quickly began to grasp that each aspect of the patient’s interface with the practice must be attended to, from the initial phone contact to reception to billing to keeping the lights on. “I became very interested in how you manage both the patient’s experience and the economic pressures imposed by government payers and the insurance industry,” he says.
Reflecting on his approach to patient care Dr. Baraf says, “It’s important that rheumatologists remember their primary focus is the patient… how their disease affects them, and how to jointly achieve the goal of improving their quality of life in all domains.”
By the time Dr. Baraf left the practice, ARA had grown to encompass seven offices in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, incorporating 25 physicians and 15 physical therapists.