At the 2012 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., the ACR and the ARHP honored a group of distinguished individuals who have made significant contributions to rheumatology research, education, and patient care. The Rheumatologist spoke with the winners about their individual contributions to advancing rheumatology. This month, we’ll meet the ACR award winners, and in a future issue, we’ll meet the ARHP winners.
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Explore This IssueDecember 2012
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Public Leadership in Rheumatology
Charles “Chad” Helmick, MD
Medical Epidemiologist, Arthritis Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta
Background: Dr. Helmick and former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) now share a link beyond the fact that Frank formerly represented Dr. Helmick’s brother in Congress. Now they are sharing this year’s ACR award for public leadership. The honor for Dr. Helmick is a nod to a career spent at the CDC, which he joined in 1979 to enroll in the Epidemic Intelligence Service training program. He then completed his preventative medicine residency there and never left. His work has focused on creating public awareness for arthritis and is credited by ACR as having led to a better understanding of why arthritis merits a higher profile in policy circles.
Q: What does an award like this mean to you?
A: Recognizing the public health aspects of rheumatology is so important—in particular, understanding how big the problem is and how the public health system can work with healthcare providers to improve the health of people with arthritis.
Q: You note that, despite the positive impacts of exercise, there’s not been mass adoption by patients. Why not?
A: There are the usual barriers for everyone—finding the time, doing something enjoyable, making it easy to do. There are special arthritis barriers as well. Some people worry about increasing their pain and harming their joints because they may not be sure how to be physically active safely. Other people are not aware of the benefits in terms of reduced joint pain. And their doctors (mostly primary care providers) may not recommend it because they are unaware of the benefits or don’t know what to recommend.
Q: What is the big hurdle to getting attention or credit to the public health system?
A: Attention is needed, not credit. A big hurdle is that the routine nature of dealing with important public health issues doesn’t get a lot of attention. Another is that the “easy” public health interventions like vaccinations have been largely done. What remains requires behavior change (e.g., be physically active, lose weight, don’t smoke, drink in moderation), and not an occasional vaccination. Behavior change is difficult.
Distinguished Clinician Scholar
Theodore Pincus, MD
Clinical Professor of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine, New York