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Volume 5  Issue 7 • July 2016 • Rheumatology Research Foundation


Researchers, Future Doctors Receive Foundation Awards

Recipient of the Foundation’s Clinician Scholar Educator Award, which helps enhance education for future doctors.

On July 1, the Rheumatology Research Foundation announced the 85 rheumatology trainees and professionals who received Foundation-funded awards. The recipients, ranging from medical students and residents to experienced researchers and rheumatologists, will use the funding to enhance their education and training, as well as conduct innovative research projects that advance treatments. Their applications, which were submitted last year, were closely examined by experts in different areas of the field through an extensive peer review process.

In the 2017 fiscal year (July 1, 2016–June 30, 2017), the Foundation will fund an estimated 275 awards totaling nearly $10.48 million. Recipients of the remaining awards will be announced later this year.

One example of the Foundation-funded awards is the Investigator Award, which encourages junior researchers to continue innovative studies into the cause, prevention and treatment of rheumatic diseases. Another award, the Scientist Development Award, supports individuals who are in the early stages of their research career as they strive to establish themselves in the field. Additionally, the Foundation’s Medical and Graduate Student Preceptorship program recruits and trains the next generation of rheumatology health professionals by providing them with a full-time mentorship with an established rheumatology professional.

Funding from the Foundation’s awards program helps recruit and train the next generation of rheumatologists, while also advancing discoveries leading to new treatments and cures. As a rheumatologist and professor at Temple University, Audrey Uknis, MD, has witnessed several students gain valuable experience from Foundation preceptorships and career development awards. She is also one of the first awardees of the Foundation’s Physician Scientist Development Award. “The Foundation has enabled scientists, physicians and other healthcare professionals to have the ability to acquire the skills and to have the resources to improve the care that we can provide to patients,” says Dr. Uknis.

For those affected by rheumatic diseases, the Foundation’s awards provide hope for improved health. Melissa Young, who has rheumatoid arthritis, says, “It’s tangible what the Foundation is doing. They’re actually showing strides and steps in a direction toward finding better solutions, and, ultimately a cure.”

Learn more about the exciting work being done by the latest recipients of Foundation funding.

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 read more stories, or share your experience by emailing us.

 #RheumLife: Finding the Right Treatment

Medicine bottles, which represent the struggle arthritis patients go through in finding the right treatment.

Although there are several treatment options for people with rheumatic diseases, medications can have different effects on different patients. What works for one person, might not work for another. Currently, rheumatologists work with patients through a trial-and-error process until they can find the right treatment, but a Foundation-funded researcher is working to improve this process with a simple blood test.


Christina Sunley, a rheumatoid arthritis patient who spent three years trying to find the right medication.Christina Sunley

 Patient Perspective 

After being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, Christina Sunley says that it took her three years of trial and error to find the treatment that worked for her. “For each treatment, we had to wait two to three months to see if it would work. Some of the medications helped significantly, but I couldn’t tolerate the side effects. Other medications had no side effects, but no efficacy either. Fortunately, the fifth medication worked well and was without side effects. It is up and down, but I’ve come a long way. Happily, it has been nearly one year since I’ve had to use my mobility scooter!”




Dr. Timothy Niewold of the Mayo Clinic, who is studying a blood test to help patients find the right RA treatment.Dr. Timothy Niewold

The Efforts to Help
Timothy Niewold, MD, from the Mayo Clinic is using Foundation funding to determine if a blood test can be used to predict a patient’s response to anti-TNF-alpha drugs for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The blood test could help rheumatologists know whether a treatment is likely to work on a patient before prescribing the treatment. By having this knowledge, patients like Christina wouldn’t have to go through months of trial-and-error only to learn that a treatment doesn’t work for her. The study also sheds light on why some patients do not respond to certain treatments, which brings us one step closer to a solution for those who have exhausted all treatment options.


Give today and help find a cure for rheumatic disease.