Workforce Shortage in Rheumatology Best Addressed on All Fronts

October 16, 2020

In this video, rheumatologist Vaneet Kaur Sandhu, M.D., addresses the workforce shortage in rheumatology. It should be addressed on all fronts, she says. If the workforce shortage doesn't turnaround patients in underserved areas will continue to be treated by physicians, albeit well-intended physicians, with little to no experience in rheumatic disease. Learn more in this interview.

This week's featured guest is Vaneet Kaur Sandhu, M.D., a rheumatologist with Loma Linda University Medical Center in California.

Dr. Sandu is a member of the American College of Rheumatology communications and marketing committee and is the author of a paper published online last fall in Clinical Rheumatology that examines health disparities in rheumatology on a global level and here in the U.S. The rheumatologist workforce shortage needs to be addressed on all fronts by opening up more spaces within medical schools, adjusting curriculum for rheumatology training and promoting the field of rheumatology, she says. Outside of rheumatology, it is not uncommon for physicians to know little about rheumatic disease. Promoting rheumatology, she says, could resolve some of these problems.

"People just need to know what rheumatology is," Dr. Sandu said.

If the workforce shortage doesn't turn around, she says, patients in underserved areas will continue to be treated by physiciansalbeit well-intended physicianswho have no experience with rheumatic disease. Patient outcomes in these cases may not always be ideal, Dr. Sandhu said.

"Advocate, advocate, advocate," she says. "One of the big things is social accountability and the concept of medical education programs being the key for encouraging, educating, and inducing advocacy in your learners. It's just so important. If a learner is not pushed to do research or serve, they're not going to know. I think it really starts in medical education."

This week's video also includes a recap of recent headlines from Rheumatology Network.

We launched a special focus on the diagnosis of axial spondyloarthritis that included a summary of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that examined whether surgery is the better way to manage sciatica from lumbar disk herniation.

We also featured an article from physicians writing in Mayo Clinic Proceedings who address factors that should be considered for an axial spondyloarthritis diagnosis.

And, this week we published a new column from Dr. Kim Gorgens, she is a Rheumatology Network board member and author of our Awkward Conversations column. This week, Dr. Gorgens addresses "long-term quarantine sanity" and how to get through the long days ahead of us.

We also published two short stories on Rheumatoid Arthritis. One focuses on a study that proposes dividing RA as two conditions---one with autoantibodies and one without autoantibodies.

And, in a second story on RA we featured a study that showed PRIME cells may serve as a predictor of rheumatoid arthritis flares.