Speaking with the press also takes some of the mystery out of joint and autoimmune disease, Dr. Kumar says—not to mention correcting myths and falsehoods. That’s also something that attracted Arina Garg, MD, rheumatology fellow, Louisiana State University Health, Shreveport, to the program.
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“There is a lot of ‘fake news’ in the medical realm, and it’s nice to have a platform for medical professionals where they are given an opportunity to share their opinions based on medical expertise,” Dr. Garg says.
Both Drs. Garg and Kumar find they are asked a wide range of questions about various diseases or conditions. Some topic examples Dr. Garg shared include the relationship between rheumatoid arthritis and gastrointestinal comorbidities, and questions pertaining to a new device or treatment. She has spoken with writers for popular websites, such as U.S. News and World Report and WebMD.
Questions often focus on the bottom line, such as how a particular news event affects someone with rheumatological disease, Dr. Kumar says.
“I like the breadth of the questions,” Dr. Garg says. “They are insightful and give me an opportunity to read up and learn about the latest guidelines or treatment options.”
About half the time, a reporter will share a story in advance with Dr. Kumar. “I appreciate that extra step that writers take so I have the chance to correct any problematic statements,” he says.
Deadlines can be an issue, Dr. Garg says, so she is happy to get her answers to reporters in a timely manner without necessarily seeing the article.
Participation in Experts on Call doesn’t usually take much time, Dr. Garg says. Often, reporters will send questions via email or give you a quick call to help you prepare. It is actually a standard part of the ACR/ARHP process to ask reporters for questions in advance or, at a minimum, to have some basic information about the story to pass on to sources, Ms. Givens says.
Dr. Kumar encourages rheumatologists who are passionate about advocacy, who can communicate clearly and who have a little extra time to participate in Experts on Call.
Vanessa Caceres is a medical writer in Bradenton, Fla.