A: My first patient during my junior year in medical school was a 24-year-old young lady who presented with arthritis, rash and nephritis. I had already started liking immunology. Exciting discoveries came about at that point, and SLE fascinated me because of its complex clinical presentation. When I arrived at NIH [the Arthritis Branch led by the late John Decker], lupus was the focus of the whole branch. The cytotoxic drug treatment protocols were in progress and most of the people were immersed in the study of immune aspects of the disease.
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Explore This IssueDecember 2014
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Q: How satisfying has it been to be able to replicate and explore in mice the abnormalities you see in patients?
A: Studies in patients with SLE can never tell us what the relative contribution is of the aberrant expression of a molecule in the expression of the disease. This is why we make mice on normal or lupus-prone background lacking or overexpressing a molecule found to be misexpressed in SLE patients. These new mice can tell us if a certain molecule can cause lupus on its own and if not what other contributors are required. In these new mice, we perform preclinical treatment studies and make recommendations for clinical trials.
ACR Distinguished Clinical Investigator Award
Graciela Alarcón, MD, MPH, MACR
Jane Knight Lowe Chair of Medicine in Rheumatology, Emeritus, The University of Alabama at Birmingham; Professor of medicine, Emeritus, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH), Lima, Perú
Background: Dr. Alarcón’s career is a mystery tale. She was fascinated by the “mysterious” multisystemic diseases, such as lupus, and gravitated to a career in academic research to “channel her interests, get closer to, and help those suffering from many diseases.” Six decades later, she looks back on a career in which she says she’s contributed “concrete and indispensable doses of hope” to her patients and their families.
Dr. Alarcón graduated UPCH as an MD in 1967 and, after training in medicine and rheumatology at Baltimore City Hospital and Johns Hopkins, earned her Master’s degree in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University in 1972. She joined the UAB faculty in 1980 and was named the Jane Knight Lowe Professor of Medicine in Rheumatology in 1998.
She was named an ACR Master in 2008 and was an active member of the ACR committee that established guidelines for the use of methotrexate, for reviewing the difficult area of fatigue, defining disease activity in lupus and lupus response criteria.