- Workforce Development: It’s no secret that in the decades to come we are facing what could be a critical shortage in rheumatologists. If trends remain the way they are, there is no way we will be able to treat the more than 70 million Americans who will face rheumatic disease by the middle of this century. The ACR and the Foundation can work together to change that. The Foundation, through its broad-based awards and grants program, will provide millions of dollars of annual support. Core programs will help to sustain the growing number of rheumatology fellows entering the subspecialty. This will be accomplished through medical student and resident recruitment programs and continued support for rheumatology fellowship training programs. The Foundation also will continue to support academic faculty in both education and research endeavors, expand our training opportunities, and provide support for mentoring activities that encourage the best and brightest to consider careers in rheumatology. There has never been a better time to be a rheumatologist.
- Targeted Research: The Foundation’s support for targeted research is already tremendously successful, but we always look for ways to improve. We’re supporting more research areas than ever before, and last fiscal year, the Foundation provided researchers with more than $12 million in funding—a record. This fiscal year, we’re on track to break that mark. We hope this portends a trend; we want to break the record every year. We are proud of our commitment to accelerate high-risk, high-reward research in inflammatory arthritis not normally funded by the National Institutes of Health or other peer-reviewed funding sources. Advancing research in this important area will enhance the practicing rheumatologist’s ability to recognize various causes of the disease, predict onset of disease, individualize treatment, prevent joint damage, and improve joint function.
- Brand Awareness: It’s difficult to accomplish your goals if no one knows who you are or what you do. The Foundation’s name change is just one aspect of our comprehensive branding campaign. Over the next three years, we will be strengthening our bonds with the ACR community while, at the same time, introducing our mission, achievements, and discoveries to new audiences. Research showed that our old name was, in some ways, a barrier to reaching new audiences. We want to break down those barriers.
- Financial Resources: We are continuing to reach out to our traditional donors and the broader rheumatology community while building new partnerships among grateful patients and with industry. In late 2012, just 13 months after its launch, the Foundation crossed the $30-million threshold in our five-year, $60-million Journey to Cure campaign. Coming on the heels of our previous campaign, Within Our Reach, which took five years to reach the $30-million goal, that’s a remarkable accomplishment.
- Organizational Growth: Meeting the goals of this ambitious strategic plan requires a staff with the talents to get the job done. As our grants and awards programs grow, so must the Foundation, but we need to grow intelligently. Strategic growth is the rule. We plan to review our governance structure to ensure that we meet the Foundation’s needs, as well as our field’s evolving needs.
That is a quick glance at the Foundation’s strategic plan. You will hear more about it in the weeks and months to come, and we hope you are as excited about the future as we are. Your interest matters to us, but even more important is your support. We encourage you to get involved with the Foundation, make a donation, and promote rheumatology to medical students and internal medicine residents with the goal of encouraging them to enter our field. We look forward to working together to grow our community and advance research and training to improve the health of people with rheumatic disease.