Thursday, 20 Feb 2020

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Georgia Society of Rheumatology: Education Leads the Way

The Georgia Society of Rheumatology (GSR) exists to stimulate interest and increase knowledge of arthritis and rheumatic diseases among physicians, allied health professionals, and lay advocates. Educational opportunities are provided during the annual two to three-day educational conference and throughout the year with the Metro-Atlanta Rheumatology Society, the Atlanta Bone Club and The Augusta Journal Club.

Following are highlights of GRS issues and activities.

Patient Care

Our rheumatologists in Georgia and across the country are under extreme pressure to care for our patients. We are losing small rheumatology practices in Georgia and everywhere because of misguided government programs that require dysfunctional EHR and MACRA which are not “evidence based” yet require us to do so called “evidence based” decisions.

This is further compounded by abusive practices of insurance companies and the regulatory burdens which are imposed against our patients and our practices. Our attempts to help our patients will continue to need to work with patient and advocacy groups because the temperament of our nation is intense disgust with the roadblocks, inaction, and government ineptitude as we try to help our patients get their care.

We are impressed with the intense assistance that the Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) gives to our patients and our practices. We work very closely with the MAG and our members have been committee chairmen and officers in the MAG. Georgia has a very effective biosimilar legislation which was crafted with the Rheumatologists, MAG and the Georgia Legislature. In the Medical Association of Georgia’s House of Delegates, we have 9 Rheumatologists. These rheumatologists are sent from their county medical societies to the House of Delegates. Two of our members are past presidents of the Medical Association of Georgia. We have one member now who is an alternate delegate from the MAG to the AMA. We develop resolutions with the county medical societies and the MAG House of Delegates that are taken to the AMA House of delegates. Some of our resolutions are developed in concert with patient advocacy groups.

One of our congressmen is an orthopedic surgeon Tom Price. We developed an advocacy group for him entitled “Rheumatologists for Tom Price” when he first ran. We continue to work with Tom Price both locally, through the MAG, through his representation as a MAG Delegate to the AMA HOD which he continues participate in and his congressional work. MAG is also very helpful in dealing with the Georgia Insurance Commissioner.

We work with ACR and CSRO in conjunction with these issues that affect us and our patient in Georgia. I cannot emphasize too much that this is done with our local rheumatologists, our patients and the local resources. We try to make decisions for all rheumatologists and not decisions that are divisive to certain practices. We work together and recommend that be done at all levels.

Annual Meeting

GSR’s CME annual meeting is developed by the Program Chairman and participants are presented guest speakers from across the United States, Practice updates from ACR, MAG, Alliance for patient access, Georgia Chapter of the Lupus Foundation, SE Arthritis Foundation, abstract presentations and other forms of CME learning such as the Thieves Market. This family-oriented meeting includes group activities, dinners and evening programs.

Fellows and Students are invited to present research papers, unknown cases as part of the Thieves Market and the winners receive prizes. In general, the Annual Meeting sites rotate around the State of Georgia from the mountains to the beaches, and we have also gone outside state borders into Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida, we support the Medical School fellowship programs and this year we are giving 4 fellows financial stipends to assist them in attending the 2016 Annual Meeting of the ACR. These fellows are selected by their program directors.

In conjunction with the state meeting we also have an office managers meeting. This meeting brings in guest speakers and has local discussion regarding office management, regulation and patient care.

Our Annual meeting for 2016 was at Hilton Head Island at the Omni Hilton Head Resort and next we will be at Lake Oconee June 1-4, 2017 at Reynolds Plantation Ritz Carlton Conference Center in Greensboro, Georgia. All rheumatologists from other states and countries are invited to attend.

MARS (our meetings are out of this world)

The Metro-Atlanta Rheumatology Society (MARS) was initiated over 30 years ago and later integrated into the Georgia Society of Rheumatology. The Atlanta Bone Club (ABC) was later integrated into MARS.

MARS meeting participants have guest speakers from all over the country who present interactive lectures for approximately one to two hours with audience discussion. The MARS meetings are held periodically in the local metropolitan Atlanta area to provide a variety of continuing medical education activities. We work with rheumatology CME groups to bring programs to our members and over the years have helped sponsor programs with groups like TREG, ARTHRSO and NACCME. MARS had a Creaky Joint presentation over 10 years ago.

We also have non-CME programs presented by our members, other physicians like hand surgeons, orthopedic surgeons and dermatologists. We have had periodic ultrasound programs with industry and have worked with Pharma programs which are non-CME under Pharma Rules for medications, Disease State program and other groups representing devices and lab testing. We have had periodic convention updates of the ACR, EULAR and ASBMR meeting.

In Research we have worked the Georgia Lupus Project and involved our patients in their data collection and in the past worked with CDC Arthritis Project and the former CDC AF ANA reference lab.

The Augusta Journal Club is a CME program and also meets monthly in the August area and the entire membership is invited to attend MARS and the Augusta Journal Club.


Our members work with patients and patient advocacy groups to help in the management of their diseases, help develop access to community resources, and help develop legislation for the benefit of patients and their physicians.

There is a relationship of the rheumatologists with National Groups such as the American College of Rheumatology, the Coalition of State Rheumatology Organizations, the Arthritis Foundation, the Lupus Foundation, Creaky Joints and the American Medical Association; with state groups such as the Medical Association of Georgia, Wisdom of Wellness (a Georgia patient advocacy group) and other State Specialty Medical Societies.  One can’t emphasize too much the importance of strong relationships with patients and patient advocacy groups.

We have our rheumatology representative to the CAHABA Medicare Carrier Advisory Committee and two of our members have been co Medical-directors of the CAC. We have worked with rheumatology colleagues in our Medicare J10 region including Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. We have also worked with Congressional legislators (Congressmen and Senators) regarding some of the issues involving the CAHABA Medicare program for our J10 region.

GSR continues to work with and for rheumatologists and the patients we care for. We invite you to check our website at for more information.

John A. Goldman, MD, MACR, FACP, CCD         Joseph P. Bailey, MD, MACR

The Georgia Rheumatism Society was formed on November 13, 1967 by Alfred Jay Bollet, MD, (of Augusta) Colon Wilson, MD (of Atlanta) and Joseph P Bailey, MD (of Augusta) when the Constitution was adopted at the organizational meeting.  The name was officially changed to the Georgia Society of Rheumatology when the Constitution was amended on April 17, 2004.

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject

Doctor Goldman is a former Clinical Professor of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia. He is presently President of Medical Quarters and Chief of Rheumatology St. Joseph’s Hospital, Atlanta, Georgia. He is in solo rheumatology, immunology and osteoporosis practice in Sandy Springs, GA. He has been named a Master of the American College of Rheumatology (MACR), a Fellow of the American College of Physicians (FACP) and a Certified Clinical Densitometrist (CCD).


Rheumatologists' Comments

It is a great group. Come and join us Y'all John
Well written article John
Thanks, Jack for remembering. A few things have changed, but most of what is stated is still active and ongoing