By Dana Symons
I was very privileged to be able to attend part of this year’s American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Annual Scientific Meeting in downtown Chicago. The annual meeting brings thousands of doctors, researchers and other professionals from around the world to one place to learn and share the latest research and findings in rheumatology. Throughout the conference, there is an exhibit hall where organizations can rent out space and share information with the conference attendees.
There were plenty of large pharmaceutical companies exhibiting there this year, along with some research organizations, publishers, and medical technology companies. This year, the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation (RPF) exhibited at the ACR annual meeting for the first time and was the only organization there representing patients with RA. The response was overwhelming.
Because I live within driving distance of this year’s conference location, I was able to go to Chicago for the weekend to help set up the RPF exhibit booth and also work at the booth for the first day of the conference. By working in the exhibit hall, I was able to talk with many rheumatologists and other healthcare professionals about the RPF, its mission and its goals. Everyone we talked to was very supportive, wanting to offer ideas and suggestions or even inadvertently giving us ideas by asking for resources from us or if we had “xyz” in place.
To attend the ACR Annual Meeting was an incredible experience from the standpoint of being able to see, meet and connect with so many people who are working toward the same goals as the RPF – only from different angles. Doctors are interested in new ways to bring about education – both peer-to-peer education among medical professionals and patient education. Researchers are interested in finding new treatments, specifically ones that target the current group of non-responders (about 33% of RA patients do not respond to the existing treatment options). Communications companies and professionals are interested in helping to give patients a voice and raising public awareness. The RPF seeks to be involved in all of it!
I cannot think of a better event to kick start the RPF than the ACR Annual Meeting. The exposure the foundation received there was great, and the conversations and connections made there will drive us forward as we pursue our mission.