A Letter from Lou Bridges
Each Year, some 27,000 people with rheumatic conditions count on HSS to provide them with the superb clinical care for which we are known. We in the Division of Rheumatology are honored by the trust they place in us—more so than ever amidst the constantly changing landscape of the pandemic. The health and safety of our patients is always our primary focus. With that in mind, it will come as no surprise that we dedicated a significant portion of our clinical and research activities in 2021 to understanding the impact of COVID-19 on our patients.
We dedicated a significant portion of our clinical and research activities in 2021 to understanding the impact of COVID-19 on our patients
HSS rheumatologists provided extensive counseling to patients on topics such as medication management, vaccines and the impact of stress, anxiety and depression on their condition. Medha Barbhaiya, MD, MPH, and Lisa Mandl, MD, MPH, did a superb job of mobilizing our COVID-19 registry, reaching out to more than 30,000 HSS rheumatology patients over the course of 2020 and 2021 to provide us with a clearer picture of our patients’ overall health and well-being.
Their impressive commitment to this work has resulted in a steady stream of publications on topics ranging from pregnancy, long-haul COVID, disease flares and the use of immunomodulating therapies such as rituximab in rheumatic patients during the pandemic. Robert Spiera, MD, and Kyriakos Kirou, MD, also led studies that found significant diminished efficacy of COVID vaccines among patients receiving these therapies.
HSS rheumatologists also made important clinical and research strides in 2021 outside of our COVID-19 initiatives.
Many of you are probably aware of the FDA approval of anifrolumab for the treatment of adult patients with moderate to severe systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) who are already receiving standard therapy. We are particularly proud of the fact that much of the groundwork for the development of this drug was done at HSS in the early 2000s in the lab of Mary K. “Peggy” Crow, MD, Physician-in-Chief Emerita at HSS and Co-Director of the Mary Kirkland Center for Lupus Research at the HSS Research Institute. Encouragingly, this drug has shown particular promise for patients with more severe disease.
HSS rheumatologists also put forward important work harnessing big data to yield thought-provoking new perspectives on clinical outcomes. Bella Y. Mehta, MBBS, MS, and colleagues published studies examining racial disparities in care among patients undergoing hip or knee joint arthroplasty.
One especially important insight from this work is that both race and place influence postsurgical discharge disposition and patient outcomes. This work provides essential information in helping us to understand barriers to care and develop increasingly effective interventions at the patient and system level.
In the coming weeks, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) guidelines for the treatment of juvenile idiopathic arthritis, for which Karen Onel, MD, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Rheumatology, served as primary investigator, are expected to publish. The new guidelines emphasize early use of disease-modifying therapies, immunization and shared decision-making with parents, caregivers and patients.
Dr. Onel is to be commended for her leadership in assembling an incredibly diverse group of medical experts, parents and patients, in order to provide her fellow clinicians with the most accurate and practical recommendations for treatment of children with JIA.
Several of our rheumatologists received prestigious recognitions this year. New faculty member and former HSS fellow Nilasha Ghosh, MD, MS, was named a 2021 Distinguished Fellow by the American College of Rheumatology. Fittingly, her mentor, Anne Bass, MD, received the ACR’s 2021 Distinguished Fellowship Program Director Award. Dr. Onel was appointed to the Pain Management Expert Panel of the Arthritis Foundation. In addition, I completed my two-year term as President of the Rheumatology Research Foundation and look forward to continued participation in ACR and RRF activities.
Looking ahead to 2022, I am particularly excited about our ongoing efforts to expand the depth, breadth and impact of translational research at HSS
Looking ahead to 2022, I am particularly excited about our ongoing efforts to expand the depth, breadth and impact of translational research at HSS. I am especially pleased that clinician-scientist Timothy B. Niewold, MD, joined the HSS faculty in 2022 as Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Medicine.
Dr. Niewold, who completed his rheumatology fellowship at HSS in 2007 under the mentorship of Dr. Crow, is an internationally renowned researcher known for his work in autoimmune diseases. He returns to HSS from NYU Langone Health, where he served as Director of the Colton Center for Autoimmunity. Joining Dr. Niewold are clinician-scientists Theresa Wampler Muskardin, MD, who studies rheumatoid arthritis, as well as Ruth Fernandez Ruiz, MD, and Ashira Blazer, MD, whose research focuses on lupus. My colleagues and I are thrilled to have recruited these three talented junior faculty members who will help lead the next generation of translational research in rheumatology.
I believe these efforts and accomplishments reflect the HSS Division of Rheumatology’s relentless pursuit of our goals of helping our patients to live happier, healthier lives, both now and in the future. I encourage you to reach out to me with your questions and ideas as we head into what will hopefully be a brighter year for all.
Physician-in-Chief and Chair, Department of Medicine
Chief, Division of Rheumatology
Franchellie M. Cadwell Professor of Medicine