Because access to care is not always guaranteed, we’ve been working to help close the gap on the nation’s rheumatologist shortage through our fellowship initiative. In June, we announced four new fellowship awards. One of those grants was offered to SUNY Downstate Medical Center, which has been awarded to Dr. Vin Sivan Pillai.
Already serving a very diverse community, the SUNY Downstate program is also addressing the needs of young adults transitioning from pediatric to adult care. This innovative program, involving rheumatologists, urban health planners, the city of Brooklyn and the Arthritis Foundation, seeks to understand the needs of young adult patients.
Dr. Pillai will be a welcome addition, with a very diverse medical background spanning several countries. He explained his journey: “I grew up in Dubai in a very multicultural environment. I decided to go to medical school in India to get some real-world experience. During my time there, I had to learn two new languages to converse with my patients. I worked in underserved areas where my patients didn’t have easy access to health care.”
Dr. Pillai moved to the UK for his residency, hoping to get into endocrinology. After completing his training, he decided to pursue better opportunities in the U.S. During his residency at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut, Dr. Pillai got interested in rheumatology.
“I saw some really interesting cases while on the rheumatology rotation. These cases were complex and required collaboration with providers from other fields,” he says. “Not only would I get the chance to sharpen my knowledge to become a well-rounded rheumatologist, but I would also get to work with providers and caregivers from other fields. I cherish the opportunity of establishing meaningful long-term relationships, and there is nothing more rewarding than seeing my patients make progress.”
“My training in India, the UK and America have given me a strong sense of cultural awareness, which helps me connect with my patients on a much more personal level,” he explains. “After completing the fellowship, I hope to work at a teaching hospital.”
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, Dr. Pillai is just one new rheumatologist who’s helping bridge the gap in the shortage of much-needed specialists.