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Conference Report: American College of Rheumatology (ACR)

Amelia Winter (AW) and Hannah Kerman (HK)

What: The annual meeting for the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP), held in Washington, DC

AW: At this conference, rheumatologists, researchers, and students gather to learn about up-and-coming research within the field of rheumatology. With this knowledge, healthcare providers can optimize their patient care.

HK: Over 16,000 people attended, including care providers (physicians, nurses, PAs), students, industry members, and researchers. The conference presents the latest science in the field of rheumatology and provides a space for learning and connections. Talks began at 7:30 in the morning and lasted until 9:00 at night. But don’t worry – the industry exhibit area had free ice cream and espresso to keep us going!


Featured OrACORe Research

AW: Dr. Lindsey MacFarlane presented an oral abstract of her work “Influence of Baseline Magnetic Resonance Imaging Features on Outcomes of Operative and Non-Operative Treatment of Meniscal Tear in Patients ≥ 45.” Her project uses a sample of patients from the MeTeOR trial, a study where I am the lead research assistant, and I was a co-author on this paper.

HK: I had the chance to present my research on racial disparities in utilization of total knee replacement at a morning poster session. I used the OAPol model (a validated Monte Carlo simulation) to estimate the number of quality adjusted life years (QALYs) lost on a population basis due to a lower rate of TKRs and a higher rate of complications for African Americans with end stage knee osteoarthritis.

During the poster sessions, a giant room with vaulted ceilings was filled with hundreds of posters. As a participant, wandering through this forest of research, it was a bit overwhelming to try to take in all the new ideas. As a presenter, it was exciting to speak with so many interested researchers and physicians who provided feedback and input on the work I had done.


Q: Describe one talk that intrigued you.

AW: Although our research focuses on orthopaedics, I spent part of my time at ACR learning about other rheumatic diseases I was otherwise unfamiliar with. Therefore, I jumped at the opportunity to learn about systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in relation to reproductive health. One of the fellows from BWH, Dr. Sara Tedeschi, presented a poster on the “Trends in Use of Hydroxychloroquine during Pregnancy in SLE Patients from 2001 to 2012.” Although HCQ is used frequently during pregnancy, it has not been studied at the population level. Hence, a team at the Brigham sought to better understand HCQ use by following patient data for over ten years. A question that remains is why some women discontinue their use of HCQ during pregnancy.

HK: In an abstract session on rehabilitation science, Dr. Jonathan Samuels of NYU Langone medical center presented his work on the impact of bariatric surgery on knee osteoarthritis. Dr. Samuels and his team found that bariatric surgery caused a decrease in OA pain soon after surgery, even though the majority of the weight loss occurred over a much longer time span. This study suggests that there are some metabolic influences on OA pain; it is not just the mechanical changes of weight loss mediating disease severity.

This presentation highlighted a number of interesting ideas that were reiterated throughout the conference. First, there is the concept that osteoarthritis is a multi-modal disease; mechanical degeneration is not the whole story. In addition, this talk highlighted the fact that the OA community does not fully understand the inflammatory environment that causes symptomatic OA. There is still much to discover before scientists fully understand OA pain and progression.


Q: What was the highlight for you?

HK: Presenting my research! It was interesting to get physician and researcher feedback on my project and ways to move the analysis forward.

AW: Learning directly from other researchers. Although we always have access to a plethora of research through PubMed, it’s a completely different experience to see people present their work, take questions, and discuss their studies with their peers, all under the same roof.

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