As her term as the ACR’s 82nd president comes to an end at this year’s ACR/ARP Annual Meeting, Paula Marchetta, MD, MBA, talked with ACR Daily News about what makes the Annual Meeting so special and relevant, along with a look ahead to the issues that the rheumatology community will address in the coming years.
Dr. Marchetta is CEO and managing partner of Concorde Medical Group PLLC. In addition to an active rheumatology practice, Dr. Marchetta continues to teach at NYU School of Medicine, where she has a faculty appointment as Clinical Professor. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
What makes the ACR/ARP Annual Meeting stand out?
Our inclusivity sets our meeting apart. The Annual Meeting brings together a diverse range of rheumatology professionals. The ACR is unique in that it’s a single society that covers all of rheumatology. We cover basic science researchers, people doing clinical trials, and bring them together with clinicians of all types who are in practice. On top of that, we bring in all of the interprofessional team members through ARP — patient care is a team effort. We also cast our net internationally and look for more ways to collaborate with our global partners. The potential for interprofessional interaction and learning opportunities with this high level of quality makes our meeting unique.
What are some of the topics and sessions at this year’s Annual Meeting that excite you the most?
It’s not so much the “what” but the “how”. We are piloting some new ways of presenting our educational content by changing the format of some talks from traditional didactic lectures to some more conversational-style learning sessions like the In the Rheum — no more than 18 minutes — that focus on what the speaker is most passionate about so that the learner will be so inspired that they are motivated to delve more deeply into the subject. They are designed to help us more actively engage and think about the educational content rather than just passively absorb it.
In regard to specific topics—I am excited about the sessions dedicated to reproductive health at this year’s meeting, especially since our guideline on reproductive health for patients with rheumatic disease is scheduled for publication early next year . There is a real need for reliable guidance, as rheumatic diseases so frequently affect women in their childbearing years.
What’s new about this year’s meeting that attendees should make sure to note?
We are launching several pilots as part of our new Educational Strategic Plan. As part of our goal to make sure our Annual Meeting serves the changing needs and learning preferences of our attendees, we are implementing some of the strategic plan’s recommendations at this year’s meeting and, depending on learner feedback, will expand on these innovations and pilot others in 2020.
Among the most exciting is the introduction of a “meeting within a meeting” — a concept in which we have identified a “community of learners.” We think creating these smaller, focused communities of learners will make the learning experience smoother and more enjoyable. This year, we will focus on our pediatric rheumatologists and rheumatology professionals, whose sessions at the meeting will be clustered around a central meeting hub dedicated to pediatric rheumatology [the Pediatric Community Lounge].
We are also introducing the Daily Digest, a session at the end of each day that summarizes the highlights from the day’s educational activities. The Daily Digest sessions provide an annotated guide to what we may have missed that day as well as a review of what we attended.
How important are the networking events to the Annual Meeting?
The need for interpersonal interactions has never been greater in our professional lives. While we all love technology and the ease of access to educational material and peer communication it affords us in our daily work, it is also very isolating. We spend a lot of time interacting with computer screens. The opportunities to meet and catch up with friends and colleagues and form new connections at a meeting such as this is very special. There is really no substitute for it.
What during your presidential term has given you the greatest satisfaction?
The wonderful relationships I’ve formed with my colleagues. As an ACR volunteer, I have been able to meet and interact with an entire cross-section of rheumatology—from world-class researchers to amazing clinicians—individuals whom I would never have had a chance to otherwise get to know or share time with. It has been tremendously enriching to me personally to have the privilege of working so closely with so many accomplished people in our field.
What did you learn about the ACR and its members during your term as president?
I appreciated how truly dedicated everyone is to doing their utmost to advance our profession across all aspects of it. Our members are so diverse, and I think that is our greatest strength. The ACR is truly unique in this regard, by supporting and protecting professional unity among us in a way that empowers us all.
Looking ahead, what excites you about rheumatology?
We have seen an upsurge in applications to our fellowship programs, with more qualified applicants than we have slots available. Much of what attracts this new generation of rheumatologists is a result of the scientific advances over the last two decades, with effective treatments for many of our diseases based on our deepening understanding of the immune system and our ability to leverage biotechnology to target it. It is ironic to have so much interest in our specialty and not be able to train more rheumatologists due to the lack of funding for additional fellowship slots—especially in view of the workforce shortages expected.
What are some of the other challenges ahead?
Adequate funding for innovative rheumatology research remains a challenge. In many ways, we are on the cusp of a golden era of rheumatology, ushered by the possibility of cure for our diseases and shepherded by the enthusiasm and dedication of those desiring to enter the field. Superimposed on all of this are the challenges for all of us in health care as the political and regulatory landscape seems to constantly shift. How to position ourselves to assert the value of what we do and to protect our patients has been and will continue to be a huge challenge, one that the ACR works tirelessly to meet.
Your leadership roles with the ACR added to an already busy private practice and teaching career. Why did you want to be involved, and what would you tell those considering getting more involved with the College?
The ACR has given me far more than I have given to the ACR. I became involved because I wanted to use the knowledge I had gained from my MBA beyond my own work in running a large multispecialty group practice. So I began on the Committee on Finance, and really loved the work and the sense that I was involved in something greater and more sophisticated than my own practice world. I was in awe of how insightful and thoughtful the discussions were — and continued to feel that way as I moved to the Board of Directors and beyond. To anyone considering getting involved with the College, I can only say it is such a professionally rewarding experience — especially for those of us in clinical practice. The perspective we clinicians bring to the work of the College is invaluable — and for the practitioner, it is incredibly meaningful to find our views and insights so welcomed.