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Volume 7  Issue 1 • January 2018 • Rheumatology Research Foundation


Rheumatology Research Foundation welcomes new leadership

President Dr. Abby Abelson
Foundation president, Abby G. Abelson, MD Foundation vice president, S. Louis Bridges Jr, MD, PhD


The Rheumatology Research Foundation has appointed Abby G. Abelson, MD, with the Cleveland Clinic to serve as president. She begins a two-year term alongside the new vice president, S. Louis Bridges Jr, MD, PhD, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Drs. Abelson and Bridges are highly accomplished leaders in the field of rheumatology with an extraordinary depth of experiences.

In their roles, Drs. Abelson and Bridges will ensure the largest private funder of rheumatology research and training in the U.S. continues to support the priorities established the American College of Rheumatology and funds programs that advance patient care.

“As a former award recipient, I truly understand the Foundation’s vital role advancing the specialty of rheumatology. The Foundation has a long tradition of supporting meaningful research, training and education programs to ensure patients are receiving the best possible care,” said Dr. Abelson. “I’m honored to work alongside Dr. Bridges and the Foundation staff. Together we will ensure support is available for programs that attract the brightest in to the field and fund innovative research.”

A passion for rheumatology has led both Drs. Abelson and Bridges to volunteer in several capacities with the Foundation and the American College of Rheumatology. Dr. Abelson has served as vice president of the Foundation, on the Strategic Planning Committee, Scientific Advisory Council, and is past chair of the ACR Committee on Training and Workforce, and the subcommittee on Academic Workforce. Dr. Bridges recently served as chair of the Committee on Research and sat on the board of directors of the Foundation.

Drs. Abelson and Bridges are also accomplished professionals. Dr. Abelson is currently chair of the Cleveland Clinic’s department of rheumatic and immunologic diseases, as well as director of education at the Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Disease. Dr. Bridges is the director of the division of clinical immunology and rheumatology at UAB, where he serves as Anna Lois Waters endowed chair of the division of clinical immunology and rheumatology. He is also the director of UAB's Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Center and co-director of UAB’s Center of Research Translation.

The Foundation is also pleased to welcome Bryce Binstadt, MD, PhD as Chair of the Scientific Advisory Council; Charles King, MD as Treasurer; Anne-Marie Malfait, MD, PhD as the ACR Research Representative; Olivier Chambenoit, PhD as the Corporate Roundtable Representative; and Erin Arnold, MD as member-at-large to the Board of Directors.

With their guidance, the Foundation will continue to achieve meaningful advancements that benefit the specialty of rheumatology and support the next generation of rheumatology professionals.

Watch the Foundation's new video to learn how we are advancing rheumatology

The Foundation has committed millions of dollars directly to rheumatology research and training programs. Watch our new videoto learn more about our impact on the rheumatology community.

#RheumLife: Researching Rare Diseases

As the nation’s leading cause of disability, rheumatic diseases cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $128 billion each year. The initial symptoms of rheumatic disease can be vague, mimicking other conditions. Rheumatic disease symptoms can be difficult to pinpoint and physicians not trained in rheumatology may misinterpret symptoms or dismiss them as merely the aches and pains of getting older. This can lead to a misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment for the condition. Rarer conditions face an even greater risk of being overlooked. Research into the nuances of the rarer forms of rheumatic disease can curb their misdiagnoses, thereby enabling patients to receive critical treatment sooner.

Jane Songhurst
“The first symptom I had was terrific pain in my right hip joint a few weeks after giving birth to my child. I was 21 years old, the doctor prescribed anti-inflammatory medication and told me it was ligaments not settling properly after birth. Anklyosing Spondylitis affects every joint in my body, including fusing of my sacroiliac joint and spine.”

The Efforts to Help
Jessica Ann Walsh, MD is studying Axial Spondyloarthritis (AxSpA) diagnosis and treatment at the University of Utah. AxSpA is a spectrum of under-recognized inflammatory diseases characterized by chronic back pain; these diseases impair quality of life and may impact mortality. Currently, methods to identify AxSpA are limited, which hinders treatment. The goals of Dr. Walsh’s research are to develop ways for doctors to more easily identify and improve the lives of people like Jane.


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