The 11th annual Investigators’ Meeting and the Rheumatology Research Workshop, held in June in San Francisco, were by all accounts great successes. California sunshine greeted more than 120 attendees as we came together to share the latest advances and updates in rheumatology research. These annual meetings have something for every research professional, whether you work in the lab, the classroom, or the clinic.
Professional meetings such as these provide our members with more than an opportunity to gain knowledge. Each year, these meetings serve as a forum where attendees connect, exchange ideas and share feedback that helps advance their work.
For two days, Foundation-funded researchers, rheumatology fellows, junior faculty, medical/graduate students and residents interested in a research career in rheumatology shared updates on their studies, networked, exchanged ideas and collaborated on future projects to advance treatments and cures for rheumatic diseases. Attendees were abuzz, exchanging new thoughts and ideas, and fueling future projects and collaborations. That is exactly what these meetings are supposed to be about.
Beyond providing a platform for established investigators to share updates on their research, the Investigators’ Meeting is a forum for building productive and mutually beneficial relationships with other Foundation-funded investigators. These collaborations help researchers advance their projects and bring new therapies to patients sooner rather than later.
Established rheumatology researcher Harris Perlman, PhD, gave a presentation on his study, “Understanding the Role of Macrophages in the Pathogenesis of RA.” Dr. Perlman’s research seeks to define a method to understand the differential roles that synovial macrophage populations play during the various phases of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). His team was the first to identify transcriptional signatures that are specific to each population of synovial macrophages during the peak of inflammatory arthritis in mice and to perform minimally invasive synovial tissue biopsies on RA patients with active disease. Dr. Perlman’s research could help rheumatology professionals understand the dynamics and pathways involved in the pathogenesis of RA.
Peter Nigrovic, MD, shared research that is leading to a better understanding of the pathways involved in the pathogenesis of RA. Dr. Nigrovic’s research focuses on understanding mechanisms of inflammatory arthritis, using both human samples and mouse models. His study, “Synovial T Resident Memory Cells in Arthritis,” examines recurrent, joint-specific inflammation in adults and children and seeks to characterize the role T resident memory cells (TRM) play in recurrent, site-specific disease. Dr. Nigrovic discussed his progress characterizing TRM from human joint specimens, as well as confirming the role TRM play in recurrent, site-specific disease through the use of a previously developed animal model.
Other presentations covered a variety of topics, all of which were aimed at helping improve treatment of and care for people living with rheumatic diseases. Teresa Tarrant, MD, presented updates on a novel technology that could advance treatment options for patients with RA. Directing laser light on inflamed joints could minimize the risks and side effects of current anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive treatments for RA patients. The technology delivers RA medication directly to the joint using wavelengths of light to release the medication. Ultimately, this treatment could facilitate the selective delivery of medications directly to the joint; specifically, red blood cells containing implanted molecular devices (i.e., phototherapeutic RBCs).
It was exciting to learn more about these projects and see how much progress is being made in rheumatology research. With new discoveries and more treatment options for patients, the combined impact the attendees have in improving the lives of patients with rheumatic disease is profound.
Each year, the ACR hosts the Rheumatology Research Workshop in conjunction with the Investigators’ Meeting. The workshop is designed for rheumatology fellows, junior faculty, medical/graduate students and residents interested in learning more about how to succeed in a research career for rheumatology. The meeting includes scientific lectures, oral abstract presentations, poster sessions and ample opportunity for eager young investigators to network with established senior investigators, as well as to learn the nuances of successful grantsmanship and career development.
Specialized tracks for early and advanced investigators ensure attendees receive relevant information that is applicable and appropriate for their current career stages. The Early Investigators’ track is designed for early fellows, residents, medical and graduate students. Attendees participated in a breakout session discussing the anatomy of grants and common pitfalls of first grants, lectures about the do’s and don’ts of menteeship and questions you didn’t know you needed to ask about Academic Medicine. Established researchers led a question-and-answer session about transitioning from fellow to junior faculty.
The Advanced Investigators’ track is designed for advanced fellows, junior faculty and postdoctoral candidates. Attendees enjoyed lectures about navigating transitions as junior faculty and protecting their time, salary and percent effort. They participated in a breakout session on developing Specific Aims for grant applications and a panel discussion about job offers, relocation and negotiation led by established investigators.
Rheumatology Research Workshop attendees also presented their abstracts to established investigators to gain valuable feedback and guidance. Keynote speaker Timothy Niewold, MD, welcomed the group of eager researchers and shared his perspective on the personal career path of a successful investigator. Each session was designed to help early career investigators advance their careers by providing opportunities to improve presentation skills, obtain one-on-one advice from leading researchers and collaborate in an informal setting.
The results gained from years of supporting our members’ innovative research were evident at this year’s meetings. The work to secure the future of rheumatology would not be possible without a strong partnership between the ACR and the Foundation. Together, the ACR and Foundation are ensuring a bright future for our profession and for patients.
David I. Daikh, MD, PhD, is the 81st president of the ACR. Dr. Daikh serves as the director of the Rheumatology Fellowship Training Program at the University of California, San Francisco and as chief of the Rheumatology Division at the SFVA Medical Center, where he directs the Rheumatology Clinic.
Abby Abelson, MD, FACR, chairs the Department of Rheumatology and Immunologic Disease at Cleveland Clinic and is president of the Rheumatology Research Foundation.