at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

ACR 2011 and the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation

This past weekend I had the chance to be a part of something great. Every year, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) holds a Scientific Meeting where doctors and professionals in the health fields come from around the world to share and learn about the latest research and innovation in the field of rheumatology. This year, the meeting happened to be in Chicago – within driving distance of my home. That’s great, but I’m not a rheumatologist nor do I work in a health related field. However, I am a rheumatology patient, and it just so happens that the first patient foundation for RA and related diseases has recently kicked off – called the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation (RPF) – and its first big event was exhibiting at the ACR Annual Meeting. If you have never been to a big conference like this, there is typically a large exhibit hall where organizations rent out space to share relevant information with the conference attendees. It can be a great opportunity for sales and marketing, and as you can imagine, much of the exhibit space for this event was taken up by the large pharmaceutical companies who make products for rheumatologic conditions. So, as I was saying, the RPF rented space here, and as a brand new non-profit, patient-based organization, they requested patient volunteers to come in and help staff the booth. When I found out that the event would be so close to home I just had to volunteer to help however I could, but I never imagined what a powerful experience it would be.

Firstly, the opportunity to volunteer at the ACR conference was incredible from the standpoint that I was able to meet people face-to-face that I had been interacting with online for quite some time. I was able to meet some amazing patients—including the founder of the RPF—and the connection I feel with some of them goes beyond words. Additionally, there are several rheumatologists that I follow and have had some interaction with on Twitter who came to the conference from around the globe: from Germany, Ireland, Columbia, India…and I actually got to meet them in person. It was an amazing experience to meet and hear from these doctors who have such a strong passion for their field, for their patients, and for using technology as a tool for doctor-patient interaction and patient education. What a unique experience to have patients, doctors and other professionals together in one place, interacting, sharing ideas and together pursuing the same goals.

Because I was working in the exhibit hall, I wasn’t able to attend any of the scientific sessions where speakers will share information on the latest research and present new findings. Fortunately, others are sharing some of what they’ve learned at the conference, and I’ve been able to pick up some information that way. However, there was something very powerful about working the exhibit booth, too, and I felt like I belonged there with my marketing background and all. It was amazing the response we got when we started talking to the doctors and professionals who stopped by our booth to learn about the RPF. People were very supportive of the foundation, and I feel like we were able to come away with some great ideas for next steps and direction for the foundation. And…that was only day one! Unfortunately, I had to be back in town for work on Monday, so I was only able to work one day at the conference. It was enough to have a great impact on me, though. I see a bright future ahead of us as patients work together with doctors and researchers for awareness, education, advocacy and better treatments—and I want to be a part of it!

**If you're on Twitter, search for the #rheum hashtag to join the conversation on RA and rheumatology - and search for #ACR2011 for conversations surrounding this year's conference

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Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!