American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting

American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting

Source:

Karp D. Welcome and Presidential Address. Presented at: ACR Convergence 2021; November 5-9, 2021 (virtual meeting).

Disclosures: Karp reports no relevant financial disclosures.
November 05, 2021
3 min read
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'Without skipping a beat': ACR president praises rheumatology resilience during pandemic

Source:

Karp D. Welcome and Presidential Address. Presented at: ACR Convergence 2021; November 5-9, 2021 (virtual meeting).

Disclosures: Karp reports no relevant financial disclosures.
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Despite the trials brought on by COVID-19, the American College of Rheumatology has “not slowed or stopped” but, instead, has continued to adapt to meet the challenges of the pandemic head-on, according to President David Karp, MD, PhD.

“In truth, I cannot imagine anything more amazing than the ACR’s response to the COVID pandemic and its effect on rheumatology providers, rheumatology patients and rheumatology trainees,” Karp, chief of the Rheumatic Diseases Division at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, said in his presidential address to open ACR Convergence 2021. “Most of these activities were started by Ellen Gravallese, MD, last year and we are in debt to her for her foresight and her ability to issue several simultaneous calls to action.”

“We have solved problems we never thought we would have faced using tools we never imagined would have existed,” David Karp, MD, PhD, told attendees. “Rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals continue to be the most creative, collaborative, and constructive group of people I know.” Source: Adobe Stock

“All of our communities devoted to improving the ability of our members to excel in their specialty have continued to meet and deliver their work virtually,” he said. “Guidance for the management of patients with rheumatic diseases who were exposed to or infected with SARS-CoV-2, as well as the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, continue to be updated and published on the ACR website well before they appear in our journals.”

Karp also applauded the early actions of ACR executives in moving the operations of the more than 100 ACR staffers out of its headquarters in Atlanta, and fostering work from home capabilities that have supported “our providers, our trainees, our researchers and our patients without skipping a beat.”

David Karp

Despite the challenges put forth by COVID-19 in managing and maintaining rheumatology care, ACR members have continued to rise to these new tests presented to them, according to Karp.

“One of the most incredible things that has happened in the last 20 months has been the creation of the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance, an effort that came about one evening on Twitter when several rheumatologists wondered whether a registry would help answer questions about the effects of SARS-CoV-2 on patients with rheumatic and autoimmune musculoskeletal diseases,” Karp said. “I watched as this idea circled the globe and took hold, with people volunteering to create the infrastructure needed online and began to formulate the questions to be answered. I think the result has been spectacular.”

The ACR assisted the Global Rheumatology Alliance’s initiative by making it a section of the college, providing the necessary administrative support and structure needed to manage this “global grassroots effort,” Karp noted.

To date, the Global Rheumatology Alliance has collected data on almost 20,000 individuals with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases who have contracted COVID-19, including 9,000 from the EULAR European registry. In addition, since its inception, the Global Rheumatology Alliance has presented and published nearly 30 manuscripts related to COVID-19 and issues important to rheumatology.

Other challenges faced by rheumatologists in general, and the ACR leadership in particular, was the radical shift toward virtual learning technologies during COVID-19 quarantine.

“At the last in-person ACR Board of Directors meeting in February 2020, the board approved a strategic plan for the ACR’s educational activities,” Karp said. “One of the goals of that plan was to investigate the possibility of having virtual meeting sometime in the next several years. Obviously, we achieved that goal early as all our conferences were transitioned to online events last year. Despite the drawbacks of virtual lectures and gatherings, I have to say that this another area where rheumatology has excelled.”

In 2020, the first all-virtual ACR Convergence hosted more than 14,000 scientific attendees from 111 countries, setting a record for attendance. According to Karp, although the necessity of the pandemic forced ACR’s hand in going completely virtual, it nevertheless demonstrated that there were many individuals for whom travel – with time away from office or family – was a considerable barrier.

“Despite all that has happened in the last 20 months, the ACR, its members and our global rheumatology community have accomplished things that are not just normal – they are truly amazing,” Karp said. “We have solved problems we never thought we would have faced using tools we never imagined would have existed. Rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals continue to be the most creative, collaborative, and constructive group of people I know. Through these awesome accomplishments, the stage is now set for a better future for our members, our profession and most of all, our patients.”