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Foundation funds 25 rheumatology opportunities at MUSC

Staff Report | | April 3, 2017

Dr. Diane Kamen, Dr. Richard Silver
Photo by Sarah Pack
Dr. Diane Kamen and Dr. Richard Silver say thanks to the Rheumatology Research Foundation for innovative efforts to encourage medical students to focus on the field of rheumatology.

The Rheumatology Research Foundation has announced that its largest fundraising campaign, Journey to Cure, has funded 25 opportunities for students, residents and faculty at the Medical University of South Carolina. The funding helps recruit and train more rheumatology professionals in South Carolina, a state that currently has only 62 board-certified rheumatologists.

Richard Silver, M.D., directs the Division of Rheumatology and Immunology at MUSC. “Any time we can attract people to rheumatology, we are thrilled,” he said. MUSC has the only training program for rheumatology in the state. “Many of the students and residents who received foundation awards have gone on to pursue rheumatology, and several have come back to South Carolina or have plans to come back.”

Silver said this allows MUSC to introduce the field to trainees at an early time in their training, potentially influencing what field they choose. “We can demo what we do and what a gratifying program it can be,” he said of a field that treats children and adults.

Left to right:   Dr. Faye N Hant, (DO) Rheumatology & Immunology  Dr. Diane Kamen, (M.D., MSCR)  Internal Medicine Internal Medicine: Rheumatology Rheumatology & Immunology   Dr. Richard M. Silver, (M.D.)  Rheumatology & Immunology  Pediatric Rheumatology 
Standing, from left to right, Dr. Kamen, Dr. Faye Hant and Dr. Silver will lead the rheumatology team's use of the foundation's funding. 

It’s an exciting time to enter the field of rheumatology given new targeted biologic therapies that are developing to treat a wide range of autoimmune diseases from rheumatoid arthritis to lupus. “We now have fantastic medications that can turn their lives around.” 

Eighteen MUSC students and residents received foundation funding for preceptorships, or one-on-one, real-world learning experiences with established mentors. Faye Hant, DO, has witnessed the program’s success as the director of the rheumatology training program at MUSC and as a mentor herself. “Students have very little exposure to rheumatology in medical school. Preceptorships allow them to actually see what rheumatologists do every day and get a taste for the types of patients we serve. By fostering that interest in rheumatology, we are increasing the workforce,” Hant said.

Another four MUSC students received scholarships to the American College of Rheumatology and Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals Annual Meeting. The scholarship is intended to encourage future doctors to consider a rheumatology career in areas such as South Carolina that don't have enough rheumatology specialists.  

Two MUSC professors received the foundation’s Pediatric Visiting Professorship Award. Designed to expose more students and residents to rheumatology, the award provides support for board-certified pediatric professors to visit institutions that do not have a pediatric rheumatology program.

MUSC assistant professor Melissa Cunningham, M.D., Ph.D., received the foundation’s Career Development Bridge Funding Award: K Bridge. The funding enabled her to continue her research on systemic lupus erythematosus. Her study, Mechanisms of Era Modulation of SLE Dendritic Cells, could help explain why the autoimmune disease is more common in women between the ages of 15 and 45.

The MUSC students, residents and staff were among more than 900 rheumatology professionals nationwide who received funding from the Journey to Cure campaign. The campaign set out to raise $60 million to support the foundation’s mission to improve the health of people with rheumatic diseases. By the end of 2016, it surpassed that goal, raising a total of $61,430,466 with support from 3,869 donors. Dollars raised during the campaign are directly invested into the foundation’s mission objectives to recruit and train future rheumatologists and health professionals, foster innovative research ideas in rheumatology and accelerate advancements in treatments and cures for all rheumatic diseases.

“We are very grateful for the support from the Rheumatology Research Foundation, as well as everyone who contributes to the foundation to keep the field of rheumatology going,” Silver said.

The Rheumatology Research Foundation also contributed to the story.