Association of Women in Rheumatology National Conference
Association of Women in Rheumatology National Conference
August 14, 2019
3 min read

Association of Women in Rheumatology address obstacles, opportunities for female providers

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Grace C . Wright

More than 300 registered attendees are expected in Hilton Head, South Carolina, this week for the sixth annual Association of Women in Rheumatology (AWIR) meeting.

Grace C . Wright, MD, PhD , president of the AWIR, told Healio Rheumatology that the meeting — which will run from Thursday, Aug. 15 through Sunday, Aug. 18 — will continue to further the goals of the organization.

“We were founded with the mission to promote the science and practice of rheumatology, to advance and educate women in rheumatology, and to advocate for our patients, and this year’s program reflects that,” Wright said. “There has been growing leadership among female rheumatology providers, and this leadership reflects the growing population of female providers in the field.”

Wright and the organizers of the meeting will address a cross-section of areas where women are needed, and require development, including advocacy, research, practice management, leadership, networking and issues surrounding fellowship and training. “Every year, we progress the curriculum,” Wright said. “But we do not just advance each of these areas as silos. We hope to advance them together and integrate them, because they do not exist independently.”

Although the program is geared toward women, Wright said that 40% of registrants are men. “We hope to educate our male colleagues about the issues we face,” she said. “Their support is necessary to reach our goals.”

The meeting will begin with an “Immunology Boot Camp” session. “This will be a deep dive, where we will look at information on immunology and embed that learning within a clinical context,” Wright said. “Every pathway starts with a case scenario. We will look at the possible avenues within those pathways that will help attendees apply the information on immunology in the clinic.”

Wright highlighted a number of other programs and sessions, from skills development focusing on how to have effective conversations with different types of patients — stoic, passive-aggressive, aggressive — to those addressing advocacy. There will also be an update on advances in the biosimilar landscape. “There has been some movement on biosimilars as recently as this past weekend,” she said. “We will take that into account at the meeting.”

Other clinical presentations will run the gamut from those looking at axial and peripheral spondyloarthritis to ways doctors can use mindfulness techniques in the clinic.

The “Latte and Learn” symposia will address some of the biggest issues women face not just in rheumatology, but across other health care fields and industries. “Our goal is to educate, but we also hope to offer actionable solutions to some of the problems women face in the clinic and in the workplace,” Wright said.


Compensation disparity is another area that the AWIR meeting will explore, with one presentation featuring two attorneys who will focus on contracting skills. “The goal is to show attendees how to push transparency in all facets of the contracting process,” Wright said.

Wright also highlighted some of the presenters, including Ester Banque, MBA, the senior vice president and Head Intercontinental Commercial for Bristol-Myers Squibb; Gilda A. Barabino, PhD, professor and dean of The Grove School of Engineering at City College of New York; Ashira Blazer, MD, assistant professor in the New York University School of Medicine Division of Rheumatology; Martha Boone, MD, a urologist with a private practice in suburban Atlanta; Megan Clowse, MD, associate professor of medicine, rheumatology and immunology at the Duke University School of Medicine; and Lisa G. Criscione-Schreiber, MD, MED, co-founder of the Duke University Lupus Clinic, and rheumatology rotation director for the Internal Medicine Residency Program.

On the lighter side, the “Posters and Prosecco” sessions are always popular, according to Wright. There will be a presidential reception on the first day of the meeting, networking events on Friday and Saturday afternoons, a dine and dance, a progressive Founding Sisters dinner, and a creative writing workshop hosted by two rheumatologists who are also published novelists.

“We will also have a panel discussion on leadership and the evolution of female superheroes on the big screen, and how this parallels what we see in female leadership today,” Wright said. “This will be a fun session that will include a leadership development panel.”

Sunday, the final day of the meeting, will feature CME presentation focused on patient-reported outcomes in RA and the launch of the AWIR advocacy training initiative. “We will close with session from Dr. Akira Blazer, who is an expert in lupus,” Wright said. “The sessions will be diverse and, like much of the rest of the meeting, will appeal to many areas of interest.” – by Rob Volansky

For more information:
Grace C. Wright, MD, PhD, can be reached at 345 East 37th Street, Suite 303C, New York, NY 10016; email:

Disclosure: Grace C Wright has received honorarium from AbbVie, Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Exagen, Genentech, Myriad Autoimmune, Novartis, Pfizer, Regeneron Sanofi Genzyme and UCB.