Nurturing the next generation of rheumatologists is a long-standing tradition at the Thurston Arthritis Research Center. Beginning as early as high school, students are encouraged to consider a career in medicine, and for the high school students, medical students and residents who have worked at the Thurston Arthritis Research Center, a career in rheumatology.
According to the statistics compiled by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), by 2020, demand for physician services in several specialty areas will not be able to meet the needs of patients. Much of this is already happening, adding to longer patient wait times to see a doctor or an inability to receive the appropriate medical care. Many factors contribute to the current medical shortage, including an aging population and an increased need for medical services due to higher rates of obesity. Obesity has been shown to worsen many medical conditions and contribute to the onset of others, for example, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
Rheumatology is one of the specialties that is predicted to seesignificant manpower shortages in the coming years. Just when medical advances in the treatment of conditions like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are having a positive effect on patient’s lives, the ability of those patients to have access to treatments is beginning to decline. It is estimated that by 2030, 67 million people will have a form of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis (OA), RA or a related condition, such as lupus, gout or fibromyalgia.
There are currently about 4900 board certified rheumatologists, not nearly enough to meet the current and expanding need. The process for specializing in a field starts in medical school, where students rotate through different specialty areas, training and learning, but also beginning to explore their own interests. Following medical school, these new physicians move on to a more specific area of medicine in their residency. If they choose to become a specialist in rheumatology, there are two additional years of training in a fellowship program.
The Thurston Arthritis Research Center has had an on-going practice of nurturing the next generation of physicians and rheumatologists by engaging students in active participation in our clinics and research areas. The types of students we have worked with are as varied as the types of projects they have worked on. Our faculty have mentored high school students working in the research laboratories on year long projects, first year medical students completing epidemiological research projects during the summer, college students shadowing physicians, medical students working on research toward a PhD while also pursuing their medical degree, postdoctoral students enhancing their research skills, residents working with physicians in the clinic to better hone their rheumatology knowledge, fellows actively training to be physicians and physician-scientists in rheumatology, and first time faculty pursuing their career goals of clinical and research work. The faculty at Thurston is dedicated to making a difference for rheumatology patients by providing the best possible training for the next generation of health care workers.