Use of her hands meant everything. It’s how she saved lives. It’s how she provided for her family.
Susan Behen, MD, trained in general surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital and held a specialty fellowship in colon surgery. For years she used her hands to perform all sorts of abdominal and laparoscopic surgeries. Then came the diagnosis – psoriatic arthritis.
Getting a correct diagnosis was difficult. She saw a hand surgeon and physical therapist who prescribed exercise, splints and injections for tendinitis. It wasn’t until she saw a rheumatologist before things got better.
For Dr. Behen, being diagnosed with arthritis meant the beginning of the end of her surgery career – a career that she absolutely loved. Her arthritis treatment provided a dramatic response, relieving her of pain and inflammation, however, the damage to her joints and tendons had caused too much weakness. She could no longer endure the demanding and long hours of surgery.
Determined to fight arthritis and help others who are living with the disease, Dr. Behen joined the Arthritis Foundation’s Advocate program and attended the 2016 Advocacy Summit in Washington, DC. There she learned about issues affecting people’s access to care. Dr Behen also met with members of Congress to ask for their help in increasing the number of pediatric rheumatologists, and for the creation of a dedicated Department of Defense research budget to address the unusually high prevalence of arthritis in the U.S. Military.
This afternoon, Dr. Behen will take her Advocate skills to an entirely new level. She will testify before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Arthritis Advisory Committee in support of a biosimilar medication for Humira.
Biosimilar mediations are similar but not generic versions of biologic drugs. If approved, the biosimilar drug for Humira will provide people living with arthritis another treatment option at a potentially lower cost.
“I’m very pleased and excited to testify before the FDA,” said Dr. Behen. “It’s very important for people with arthritis to tell their story, helping people who are in decision-making positions better understand the challenges we face, but more importantly, how they can knock down barriers and improve access to care.”
Advocates are our most powerful voice against laws and regulations that create barriers to care for people living with arthritis. Our annual Advocacy Summit is a two-day conference that invites people from across the country who are interested in participating in the legislative process. Participants learn how best to interact with elected officials and educate these decision makers on the needs of people with arthritis. Mark your calendar and plan to attend the 2017 Summit on March 6-7 in Washington, DC.