An elderly lady places her hand on her husband's shoulder.


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Volume 5  Issue 12 • December 2016 • Rheumatology Research Foundation


Importance of Rheumatology: a Health Professional Perspective 

Four rheumatology students smiling at a table during the Foundation student and resident experienceNicole Bertolino, OTS (top left) and her colleagues at the Foundation's 2016 Student and Resident Experience enjoyed a full day of expert-led discussion on rheumatology practice and research in D.C.  

Pursuing a Master’s of Science degree in Occupational Therapy at the Medical University of South Carolina, Nicole Bertolino, OTS was among the 34 students and residents selected for the Rheumatology Research Foundation’s Student and Resident ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting Scholarship. At the 2016 meeting, held in Washington, D.C., Nicole had the opportunity learn from thousands of rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals from across the globe. As a first year student, Nicole says the opportunity was encouraging and exciting, and was most struck by the commitment to patient care,

 “In this sea of impressive resumes and numerous accomplishments, what resonated with me was a commonly held understanding of the merit of this work that stretched across disciplines—that is, that pursuing advances in rheumatology and treatment of rheumatic conditions is worthwhile, valuable because the people afflicted by those conditions are valuable. “

 In a commitment to growing the specialty of rheumatology, the Foundation offers the Student and Resident ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting Scholarship to students and residents in areas of the United States underserved by rheumatology professionals. Recipients of the award must be from or live in one of 27 states, including Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and, of course, Nicole’s own South Carolina. For the populations of these states, access to rheumatology healthcare is exceptionally limited. 

Luckily for rheumatic disease patients in South Carolina, another healthcare professional has walked away from the Annual Meeting more committed than before to understanding rheumatology, 

“I came away from the Meeting inspired, curious, and motivated. I learned more about the patient populations covered within the rheumatology field, and left with a greater personal interest in furthering my own understanding of rheumatic conditions, especially as I hope to serve geriatric clients in the future.” 

A Dual Perspective to Improved Outcomes

Nicole says she is grateful for her experiences during Annual Meeting and reflects on the similarities between the stories shared in D.C. and those she has been lucky to have from her parents, both registered nurses, and her grandparents, affected by rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis, 

“I am thankful to have been exposed to both sides of healthcare--the health provider's view, as well as the patient's perspective.It is a gift to hear a person's individual story. As I have learned from the accounts of my grandmother and father, so have I mined gems from the accounts of the individuals at the ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting. Listening to numerous healthcare professionals at different ages and stages of their careers was encouraging and exciting!”

Nicole Bertolino, OTS is expected to graduate in 2018 and wants to work to increase everyday function for her future patients.


Ways to Give to Rheumatology 

December 31st marks the end of the Foundation’s five-year campaign, Journey to Cure and the final day to make a tax-deductible gift for your 2016 tax returns. To support the leading source of private funding for rheumatology research and training, you can give to the Foundation in one of the following ways:

Send a text Give a gift on the go by texting "RHEUMLIFE" to 41444

Become a fundraiser Encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to donate to critical rheumatology research and training programs by creating a personalized crowdfunding page, hosted by the Foundation. 

Honor a loved one Celebrate the life of a loved one or recognize your extraordinary rheumatologist and their healthcare staff with a memorial or honorary page

Buy a Rodnan Commemorative Gout Print The vintage gout prints are a symbol of Foundation support and a unique reminder of the challenges presented to patients through their rheumatic disease. Purchase the 2016 print, Leap Year, or pick your favorite from the collection

Mail a check All checks should be made out to the Rheumatology Research Foundation and sent to: 
2200 Lake Boulevard NE
Atlanta, GA 30319

Patients describe the challenges of life with an autoimmune disease.

Meet people who are living with rheumatic diseases, and learn what the Foundation is doing to help. In this "Rheum Life" series, we will share patients' perspectives of life with rheumatic disease and feature the Foundation-funded researchers who are working to advance treatments and find cures. Visit the improving patient care page to to read more stories, or share your experience by emailing us.

 #RheumLife: Autoimmunity Intervention 

A rheumatology research lab with vials and a scale, where investigators search for ways to cure rheumatic diseases.

Arthritis is commonly associated with old age, despite children and young adults who can be affected by rheumatic disease. This belief can lead to misdiagnosis and complications with chronic arthritis later in life. One researcher is using his support from the Foundation to intervene and eventually prevent pediatric rheumatic diseases from affecting patients in the long-term.


Ally Kopec, a rheumatoid arthritis patient who developed RA as a child.Ally Kopec

 Patient Perspective
“When I first started experiencing symptoms, I was told I had growing pains. I was the only student in my school who spent 10 days in the hospital, unable to walk because of pain in my legs. Finally, I was diagnosed at 23 with rheumatoid arthritis, 26 years ago.” Had her doctors understood rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, Ally could have begun treatment for her RA much sooner.  





Dr. Weaver, whose autoimmunity research could benefit pediatric RA patients.Dr. Lehn Weaver

The Efforts to Help
While the immune system’s role is to protect the body from pathogens, in some cases of rheumatic disease, an immune response can develop in the absence of infection. Autoimmunity occurs in these scenarios and triggers an immune response that targets the body. Lehn Weaver, MD, PhD of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is studying how non-infectious immune responses are induced and sustained, leading to chronic inflammation and autoimmunity. As a pediatric rheumatologist, Dr. Weaver’s research aims to understand how chronic inflammation develops before the onset of autoimmunity to inform future attempts at intervention and prevention of certain rheumatic diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, especially as they affect children. This research could be beneficial to patients like Ally, whose disease onset began early in life. 




Give today and help transform the future for millions of people living with rheumatic disease.