During ACR Convergence 2021 in early November, the ACR and the ARP honored a group of distinguished individuals who have made significant contributions to rheumatology research, education and patient care. This month, The Rheumatologist profiles the winners of the ARP President’s and Merit Awards.
ARP PRESIDENT’S AWARDS
The ARP president can choose to honor ACR/ARP members or teams performing outstanding service within the present year to advance the goals, ideals and standards of the ARP. This year, ARP President Christine Stamatos, DNP, ANP-C, announced five recipients of the President’s Award.
Jill Blitz, PT, DPT, APT, has been a physical therapist for 20 years, with the last 18 providing service at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Division of Pediatric Medicine outpatient and rheumatology clinics. Her research has focused on exercise in adolescents with rheumatologic involvement. One of her goals is to find ways to get kids of all abilities to be more active.
She has spoken at multiple national and community conferences, including the ACR’s Annual Meeting and the American Physical Therapy Association’s Combined Sections Meeting. Dr. Blitz also volunteers for the Arthritis Foundation and the Scleroderma Foundation, as well as for the ARP.
“Thank you so much for giving me this award. I feel very honored,” Dr Blitz says. “It’s been a challenging year coming into this role and I have learned so much that I can bring into this next year.”
Becki Cleveland, MPH, PhD, is an assistant professor of medicine at the Thurston Arthritis Research Center (TARC) of the University of North Carolina Department of Medicine in Chapel Hill. She is an active faculty member of TARC’s Core Center for Clinical Research in the Methodology Core, providing epidemiologic, study design and statistical methods expertise. Her interests span multiple areas including osteoarthritis, obesity, physical activity, rheumatoid arthritis and social determinants.
“Receiving this award is a great honor for me,” Dr. Cleveland says. “I have been a volunteer with the ARP for several years now, and it has been a very fulfilling experience and a large part of my professional identity within rheumatology. I enjoy being a tiny cog in the giant machinery of the College that works to make the ARP experience a great one for their membership, as well as members of the ACR as a whole. I have met and worked with so many wonderful people in the College.
“Since I began volunteering, I have always tried to work with the leadership to make improvements that will benefit our membership that will make them feel like their needs are being met,” she notes. “Over time, there have been so many important changes that have resulted in better integration of the ARP with the ACR, and many more are in the works. I cannot say enough good things about the current leadership for their dedication to the mission of making [the] ARP a better, more representative organization that strives to put its members first, and I am just honored to be a part of it.”
Dr. Cleveland is a collaborator on several studies, including the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project (JoCoOA), Walk with Ease (WWE), Consortium for the Longitudinal Evaluation of African-Americans with Early Rheumatoid Arthritis (CLEAR), WWE in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and other trials.
She holds an MPH from Tulane University, New Orleans, and a PhD from the University of North Carolina.
Susan Murphy, ScD, OTR/L, is an associate professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and a research health science specialist at the VA Ann Arbor HealthCare System, Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC). She is faculty lead of behavioral studies and the Peer Mentor Program at the University of Michigan Scleroderma Program.
Dr. Murphy’s research involves developing and testing non-pharmacological interventions for individuals with scleroderma, and she has been the recipient of various grants through the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Scleroderma Foundation and the Rheumatology Research Foundation.
“I appreciate the award because I feel like I participated in the growth of the organization during a time when many things were changing. I am thankful that my contributions to the ARP and ACR on the program planning committee were valued. I hope that I was able to help pave the way for more educational opportunities for convergence of professionals across disciplines,” Dr. Murphy says.
Linda Rodamaker, NP, is a nurse practitioner and senior instructor at the University of Colorado, Denver, working in the Department of Rheumatology. She completed her Master of Science in nursing in 1997 and has been working as a nurse practitioner ever since.
“I am so honored to receive this award,” says Ms. Rodamaker. “I have been an active member and volunteer with the ARP for several years. The enjoyment of helping is so rewarding. Getting involved has given me the opportunity to meet and work with so many members. I have made lifelong friendships.
“When I went to my very first ACR annual meeting 15 years ago, I had no idea just how big this conference was. I was overwhelmed by the size and really did not know anyone. Getting involved has given me the opportunity to grow and support the work of the College, especially the ARP. Now as I attend the annual meeting, I am so excited to see my colleagues and friends each year. Of course, we will all be so happy to be back together in person at some point,” she notes.
“I have worked in rheumatology at the University of Colorado for the last 15 years. I am so blessed to have the most amazing group in the Department of Rheumatology. Our entire staff and especially our amazing patients are what make my job so rewarding,” Ms. Rodamaker says.
Daniel Schaffer, PA-C, MPAS, is a senior physician assistant in the Division of Rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. His concurrent military career with the U.S. Army Reserve spanned 27 years, entering the reserves as a private first class and retiring as a major.
Mr. Schaffer completed his physician assistant (PA) training in 1994 at Cook County Hospital/Malcolm X College in Chicago and completed his master’s in Family Medicine Fellowship at the University of Nebraska Medical School, Omaha, in 2000. After completing his PA training, he practiced primary care with the Unity Physicians Group and the Goshen Health System in Indiana before joining the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., in 2001.
His military medical training and the specialized rheumatology training he received at Mayo Clinic proved to be invaluable when he was deployed in 2004–05 to the Middle East in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Noble Eagle. He cared for coalition soldiers and civilians of host nations with primary care and rheumatology conditions.
Mr. Schaffer has been a member of the ARP since 2001 and has been very active in multiple task forces, including those that developed the Advanced Rheumatology Provider Course, the Rheumatology Nursing course and the Nurse Practitioner/Physician Assistant Fellowship Program. He served as the ARHP representative to the ACR Blue Ribbon Task Force on Academic Rheumatology and currently chairs the ARP Practice Committee.
Receiving the 2021 ARP President’s Award came as a surprise to Mr. Schaffer. “To be recognized and thought of so highly by your peers with such a prestigious award is humbling, and I am honored,” he says.
“I feel very blessed for the opportunities that volunteering in the ARP has given me and very thankful for the professional education, friendships, networking and general support it has provided to me over the years,” Mr. Schaffer added.
ARP MERIT AWARDS
ARP Master Awards
The ARP’s highest honor—the Master Award—went to two ARP members in 2021 for their outstanding contributions to the field of rheumatology: Marian T. Hannan, MPH, DSc, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston, and Norma Liburd, MN, RN-BC, clinical nurse specialist at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, St. Petersburg, Fla.