When ACR Convergence 2021 begins in November, David R. Karp, MD, PhD, will be winding down his term as the American College of Rheumatology’s 84th president.
Dr. Karp, chief of the Rheumatic Diseases Division at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, talked about what he’s looking forward to during ACR Convergence and what registrants should be looking for when the meeting takes place, starting Nov. 1 with early access to the virtual platform and continuing through the ACR Review Course on Nov. 10.
Visit the ACR website for information, updates, and registration details on ACR Convergence 2021.
Dr. Karp also talked about how the rheumatology field and the ACR have navigated a challenging year and what the future could hold. Answers were edited for length and clarity.
What makes ACR Convergence special or different from other rheumatology meetings?
ACR Convergence is the high point in the year for many rheumatologists and rheumatology professionals. It is the time when they get to see and hear the best science, newest updates in patient care and importantly, network with friends and colleagues from across the nation and around the globe. The fact that we must do this virtually again this year does make the ACR Convergence experience different, but we are hoping that people can still have many of the same opportunities. Look for expanded numbers of Community Hubs, which are live gatherings of people with common interests. I participated in several of these last year and had a great time talking with people I hadn’t seen in a while.
What are some of the things that excite you most about this year’s meeting?
This year we will have our first Global Rheumatology Summit on Wednesday, Nov. 3. We will have tremendous talks and discussion on promoting health equity around the globe, learning from women who have been trailblazers in international rheumatology, and learning how technology is solving some of the access to care issues we all face. I am also looking forward to the Basic and Clinical Research Conference, which will bring together a vast amount of information on the rheumatology implications of SARS-CoV-2 infection. We have all been bombarded with data on COVID-19 in the past year and a half and this will be great way to distill that into useful facts and clinical practice points. I am excited to hear our Opening Lecture by Dr. Seema Yasmin. Dr. Yasmin is a faculty member in the Stanford University Center for Health Education. She has worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and has written several books on medical communication. She will help us understand the new roles healthcare professionals have had to take on during COVID-19, dispelling medical myths and helping our patients navigate massive amounts of medical information.
What advice would you give somebody so they get the most out of ACR Convergence?
Even though the virtual ACR Convergence doesn’t require good walking shoes and the energy to get from one end of a convention center to the other, it still requires planning. First of all, block off time for the meeting, if you can. That way you can listen to the talks as they are presented and ask questions in real time. Look at the schedule ahead of time. Each time slot has over 10 concurrent sessions. Decide which ones are most important and prepare your agenda. Don’t forget to visit the posters, where presenters will be available to “chat” with attendees.
You assumed the presidency at a most challenging time. How has COVID-19 affected ACR’s top initiatives, and how can the ACR still fulfill its goals?
One of the truly amazing things I have noticed in the past 15 months is how quickly and completely the staff and volunteers reacted to COVID-19 so that the day-to-day work of the ACR, from educational programs to advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill to helping members with insurance problems, kept on going without a pause. We were able to start new programs last year under Dr. Ellen Gravallese, including the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Subcommittee and the Global Engagement Special Committee, whose projects are now coming to fruition. I am extremely proud of the nimbleness of our Board of Directors and Executive Committee. We have missed seeing each other in person, but the use of virtual meetings has created opportunities to react quickly to carry out the business of the College in record time.
What are the main priorities for the remaining months of your term?
The major priority for the rest of my presidential term is the successful completion of our new strategic plan. These efforts have been the guideposts for the ACR as we create and deploy more programs and services for our members, work to expand and train our workforce, and ensure the best outcomes for our patients. Our Strategic Planning Task Force has been chosen and is starting the deliberate and thoughtful process of creating visionary goals for our volunteers and staff.
What excites you about rheumatology right now and into the future?
There are a lot of exciting things happening in rheumatology now. We have an abundance of applicants for our fellowships, and the ACR and Rheumatology Research Foundation are working together to find novel ways of creating new training opportunities. There continue to be new therapies on the horizon for people with chronic, disabling rheumatic diseases. Each year, our investigators make new discoveries, from disease mechanisms to best practices in patient care. Perhaps the thing that excites me the most about the future of rheumatology is the people I have worked with over the past five years. Young and old, in community practice or academics, I have met the most creative, hard-working and dedicated physicians and rheumatology professionals who are going to ensure the future of our profession for many years.
When you talk to ACR members and other rheumatology professionals, what’s the most common topic?
Right now, unfortunately, everyone is still talking about COVID-19. Mainly, this centers around vaccination and whether our patients who are on immunosuppression will need additional shots, whether they should mix types of vaccines, and how often they should get them. While the pandemic has been horrible in many, many ways, it has given us the opportunity to study immunization in our patients quickly and thoroughly, providing strategies we will probably extend from preventing COVID-19 to preventing other infectious diseases like influenza or pneumococcal pneumonia. The ACR will be at the forefront in the dissemination of this information so that our members can help their patients navigate these uncharted waters.
REGISTER TODAY FOR ACR CONVERGENCE
If you haven’t registered for ACR Convergence 2021, register today to access all of the valuable content during the meeting, November 3–10. Registration also includes on-demand access to the virtual platform (session recordings, Poster Hall, Community Hubs, and ShowRheum) until March 11, 2022.