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A Convergence of Ideas: COVID19 and ACR

Nov 05, 2020 5:47 pm

Since the beginning of the pandemic, rheumatologists scrambled to figure out how the SARS-CoV-2 virus will affect their patients with immune mediated inflammatory diseases (IMID). 

Will patients on biologics do better or worse? Are patients with certain IMID more likely to be hospitalized or suffer severe complications from the disease? Will pregnant patients be okay? How will patient care be affected by the pandemic? What is the best way to balance what patients hear on the news and reassure them with scant scientific data? 

Meeting the needs of patients, managing a practice, and trying to balance a home life have many doctors stressed. The American College of Rheumatology (ACR), under the leadership of Dr. Ellen Gravellese, has been very responsive to its members’ needs by providing town hall meetings, drafting multiple guidance papers* based on scientific data for: 1. caring for adult and pediatric patients during the pandemic, 2. reopening practices safely, 3. allocating resources for patients. Additionally, the college had forged task forces that lobbied for parity, stimulus dollars, telehealth modalities, and decrease administrative burden for practicing rheumatologists. This year’s ACR meeting is a feat, changing the way meetings will be conducted. The program promises to be engaging, informative, and  world-class.

Not surprisingly, COVID19 is a hot topic at this year’s virtual meeting. The opening session featured the strengths of rheumatology: science and resilience. Dr. Gravellese opened the meeting with grace and humility reviewing lessons she learned during the pandemic. She emphasized how important it was to respond rapidly, to collaborate with other specialties, and to adapt in times of crisis.  She cautioned that we need to reorganize our way of thinking. COVID19 had taught us that we cannot be in “silos” of organ-based thinking, where specialists often believe their organ of study is the only one that matters; we must consider disease-based evaluations. 

As rheumatologists, we are familiar of seeing how IMID can affect multiple organ systems; this should be encouraged in other areas of medicine. Dr. Gravellese also noted that we know immunology best and need to be involved, exclaiming, “We should always be in the room where it happens!”  It was a shame that other specialties were fumbling with the medications we are most familiar and created huge shortages for our patients based on poor science.  Finally, she closed her speech stating that we are a global society and cannot think in an “isolationist manner;” to end this pandemic, problems must be solved collaboratively. I am grateful for Dr. Gravellese’s leadership as I reflect on the burden she shouldered to allow us to emerge even stronger. 

“We care about our patients, science, and each other.”—Dr. Ellen Gravellese

*All these documents may be found on  

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

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