ACR President Praises Resilience in Rheumatology During Pandemic
05 November 2021
3 minutes to read
Source / Disclosures
Karp D. Welcome and presidential address. Presented at: ACR Convergence 2021; November 5-9, 2021 (virtual meeting).
Karp does not report any relevant financial disclosure.
Despite the hardships caused by COVID-19, the American College of Rheumatology has “not slowed down or stopped” but, instead, has continued to adapt to meet the challenges of the pandemic head-on, according to the president David Karp, MD, Ph.D..
“In truth, I cannot imagine anything more astonishing than the ACR’s response to the COVID pandemic and its effects on rheumatology providers, rheumatology patients and rheumatology trainees,” said Karp, chief of the Rheumatic Disease Division at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, in its presidential address to open the ACR Convergence 2021. “Most of these activities were initiated by Ellen Gravallese, MD, last year, and we are indebted to him for his foresight and ability to issue multiple simultaneous calls to action.
“All of our communities dedicated to enhancing the ability of our members to excel in their specialty have continued to meet and do their jobs virtually,” he said. “Guidelines for the management of patients with rheumatic diseases who have been exposed to or infected with SARS-CoV-2, as well as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, continue to be updated and posted on the site. ACR Web long before they appeared in our newspapers. . “
Karp also applauded the early actions of ACR executives in moving the operations of more than 100 ACR staff out of its headquarters in Atlanta and fostering work from home that has supported “our contractors, our interns, our researchers and our patients without skipping a beat. “
Despite the challenges COVID-19 poses in managing and sustaining rheumatology care, ACR members have continued to live up to these new tests presented to them, according to Karp.
“One of the most incredible things that has happened in the past 20 months has been the creation of the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance, an effort that took place one evening on Twitter when several rheumatologists wondered if a registry would help answer questions about the effects of SARS-CoV-2 on patients with rheumatic and autoimmune musculoskeletal diseases, ”said Karp. “I saw this idea go around the world and take hold, people volunteering to create the necessary infrastructure online and started framing the questions that needed to be answered. I think the result has been spectacular.
The ACR aided the Global Rheumatology Alliance initiative by making it a section of the college, providing the administrative support and structure necessary to manage this “grassroots global effort,” Karp noted.
To date, the Global Rheumatology Alliance has collected data on nearly 20,000 people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases who have contracted COVID-19, including 9,000 from the European EULAR registry. Additionally, since its inception, the Global Rheumatology Alliance has presented and published nearly 30 manuscripts related to COVID-19 and issues of importance to rheumatology.
Other challenges faced by rheumatologists in general, and ACR leadership in particular, have been the drastic shift to virtual learning technologies during the COVID-19 quarantine.
“At the last in-person ACR board meeting in February 2020, the board approved a strategic plan for ACR’s educational activities,” said Karp. “One of the objectives of this plan was to explore the possibility of having a virtual meeting in the next few years. Obviously, we achieved this very early on as all of our conferences turned into online events last year. Despite the drawbacks of virtual conferences and gatherings, I must say this is another area where rheumatology has excelled.
In 2020, the first fully virtual ACR Convergence hosted over 14,000 scientific participants from 111 countries, setting a record attendance. According to Karp, while the necessity of the pandemic forced ACR’s hand to go completely virtual, it nonetheless demonstrated that there are many people for whom travel – with time away from the office or family – were a considerable obstacle.
“Despite everything that has happened over the past 20 months, the ACR, its members and our global rheumatology community have accomplished things that are not just normal – they are truly amazing,” said Karp. “We solved problems we never thought we would face using tools we never imagined existed. Rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals continue to be the most creative, collaborative and constructive group of people I know. With these impressive accomplishments, the stage is now set for a better future for our members, our profession and most importantly, our patients.