As rheumatologists, we know that it takes more than a single physician to provide care for a patient with arthritis. That understanding is reflected in the composition of the ACR, which includes all healthcare professionals who treat people with rheumatic disease. As researchers, we realize that almost any advance in basic science or in clinical therapeutics depends on the cooperation of many members of a research team, and on successful engagement of sources of funding. And, increasingly, as a professional association, the ACR appreciates that partnerships with other organizations are essential to achieve our goals and our potential.
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Explore This IssueAugust 2008
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Who are our partners in 2008? Within this country, many partners deserve mention: various institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Bone and Joint Decade, the American Medical Association, the companies that are members of the ACR’s Industry Roundtable and that support specific programs of the ACR’s Research and Education Foundation (REF), and many others. But among all of our partners, the oldest and, in many ways, most important is the Arthritis Foundation (AF), the organization that represents our patients. Just over 20 years ago the American Rheumatism Association (the forerunner of the ACR) was a component of the AF. Our independence as an organization has allowed the ACR to build its resources and capabilities so that it can work with the AF far more effectively as a partner than it ever could as a subsidiary.
The ACR and the AF
Some of our key ongoing collaborations with the AF are in the areas of advocacy, public awareness of arthritis, public health, and research. When we lobby our elected representatives, our efforts are paralleled by AF volunteers. These lay advocates have worked hard on behalf of rheumatology throughout the recent Medicare reimbursement crises, and we’ll need their voices again in the future. Meanwhile, the REF and the AF are trying to better coordinate their research funding programs in areas ranging from targeted research in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to training opportunities for new researchers. With the recent decline in the ability of the NIH to fund the “K” awards—a mentored career development award that is usually the first post-fellowship grant for a new physician scientist or clinical investigator—we foresaw the potential loss of a precious cohort of future academic leaders in rheumatology. Within a few months, the REF, in partnership with the AF, devised and implemented a plan to provide bridge funding for deserving new rheumatology investigators whose outstanding K grants had not been funded. These bridge awards—conceived early in 2008 and funded on July 1, 2008—are providing a vital source of support during a critical career transition phase for some of our best and brightest young academic rheumatologists.
ACR and EULAR
While many of our partner organizations are based in the United States, increasingly the ACR is expanding its scope of collaborations beyond our national borders. The European League of Associations of Rheumatology (EULAR) has become one of the ACR’s most significant collaborators over the past few years. The structure of EULAR, which comprises the national rheumatology associations of the European countries, is different than the structure of the ACR, which is an association of individual professionals. The scope and impact of EULAR’s activities, including its meeting and journal, have made tremendous strides over the past ten years, and this also reflects the growth of rheumatic disease research in Europe. ACR members are involved in the committees that plan EULAR’s annual meeting and review manuscripts submitted to its journal, just as EULAR members participate in similar activities within the ACR.