It’s a well-known fact that there is a shortage of rheumatologists in the U.S. Because of this severe shortage, seeing a rheumatologist often means traveling out of state. This problem is predicted to grow, with a projected shortfall of 3845 rheumatologists by 2025. The workplace shortage is particularly dire in pediatric rheumatology, where giant sections of the country still have no pediatric rheumatologist. The consequences are numerous and include delayed treatments and inadequate care.
The Arthritis Foundation continues to make in-roads into the rheumatology workforce shortage. We are committed to closing this gap by offering fellowship training grants to universities that offer innovative training programs for rheumatologists who will practice in underserved areas. Since 2018, we have been able to fund about a dozen new adult and pediatric rheumatology training slots through our fellowship program.
Due to the large number of applications and generous funding from donors, the Arthritis Foundation is funding five new fellowships for 2020. Unique to this year is all the fellowship grants will focus on the need for pediatric rheumatologists.
A child with arthritis currently travels an average of 57 miles to be seen by a pediatric rheumatologist! In 2017, 10 states (20% — the red states on the map below) had no pediatric rheumatologists. The Arthritis Foundation, through our Fellowship program, is helping to make a difference. Since 2017, we’ve been able to reduce that number to 7. Nevada, Montana, and Oklahoma now each have one pediatric rheumatologist.
The new 2020 fellowship awards will help enable thousands of children to be seen sooner, travel a shorter distance and align with the Arthritis Foundation goal to have customized care for children within juvenile arthritis.
The 2020 fellowship review committee was comprised of adult and pediatric rheumatologists, patients*, and foundation staff. They reviewed 21 fellowship grant applications from 8 adult,11 pediatric, and 2 combined adult/pediatric institutional programs.
*It’s important to note, no other existing national fellowship program systematically incorporates patient viewpoints.
The institutions chosen for the 2020 grants were selected based on innovation of the training programs, the level of committed outreach to underserved communities and a history of working with the Arthritis Foundation. Each grant offers a total of $150,000 matching funding for up to three years of fellowship training. These programs were selected for their ability to provide strong innovative training. In pediatrics, this focuses on transition treatment and care of adolescent patients who are entering young adulthood. Several of the training institutions offer care to diverse populations over large areas of the country.
As part of the Arthritis Foundation fellowship program, each accepted program performs an access-to-care project. The Arthritis Foundation, on behalf of our donors, is proud to announce the following institutions and their access to projects.
University of California San Francisco (UCSF), CA
The UCSF program is considered a leader in transition care throughout the country. They serve a large underserved area, with large numbers of patients who travel long distances from northern California and Oregon. Academically, UCSF has a record for the outstanding productivity of their fellows — the program has sent strong rheumatology researchers to many centers around the country.
Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation, Aurora, CO
This innovative program offers transition care and telemedicine to underserved patients from Colorado and at least four large surrounding states. This program is pioneering new ways to make earlier diagnoses so treatment can begin earlier and produce better patient outcomes. While this fellowship training program is still relatively new, the review committee felt it is an up-and-coming program that shows true dedication to moving forward in an area where need and opportunity are likely to rise. This fellowship grant will be split between two fellowship students, thus further increasing the number of trained pediatric rheumatologists.
Seattle Children’s Hospital, Seattle, WA
Seattle Children’s Hospital serves underserved populations from a large geographic area that includes Alaska, Washington state, Idaho and Montana. The fellows receive a large amount of experience through participation in outreach clinics and exposure to telemedicine. The program has a track record of training successful fellows who became leaders in the field. The curriculum has depth and there is close collaboration with adult rheumatology. Fellows learn through innovative methods. This grant is being awarded due to the generous support from the Ludlow-Griffith Foundation.
Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC
Duke University has a track record of developing fellows who have served many roles within the pediatric rheumatology community. Duke serves a diverse patient population who travel long distances for Duke’s expertise and innovative methods. Duke also utilizes an electronic consult program to serve a large patient population. The program focuses on collaborative, multispecialty medical treatment for teenage patients who are unique and work together with the goal to improving patient care.
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
The University of Florida serves a large at-risk population from Florida, southern Georgia, and the Caribbean, including low-income, special-need, and immigrant families. . This program uses telemedicine to reach patients and is developing a transition care program to help teenage patients transition to adult care. The University of Florida uses a team-based approach to help patients navigate the health care system with prior authorizations and through different medical specialties. This grant is being awarded through the generous support from the Purple Playas Foundation.
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