Chairs of Rheumatology
Over the last number of years Arthritis Ireland has been spearheading the creation of Ireland's first Chairs of Rheumatology with more than €7 million raised so far. These funds will be invested in this groundbreaking initiative at Irish universities over the next five years.
Currently Ireland is ranked 23rd out of 25th in research outputs in Europe. This is due to severe underdevelopment in academic rheumatology nationwide. We also have the lowest number of consultant rheumatologists in Europe per head of population with one per 400,000 versus the World Health Organisation’s recommended level of one per 80,000. Amongst those 95% have general medicine commitments up to 50% of their time. It’s not just in practice that rheumatology is neglected either; it is estimated that that as little as 10% of undergraduate time is spent exposed to rheumatology during university training.
However the future now looks a lot brighter for Ireland on the rheumatology landscape. Based on the successful model adopted by the Arthritis Research Campaign in the UK (ARC), which made the extraordinary discovery of the anti-TNF protein that lead to the development of biologic drugs, Arthritis Ireland’s Chairs of Rheumatology will provide cutting-edge teaching, training and research in rheumatology here. It is the most significant development in Irish rheumatology to date.
The funding for this project is derived from three sources; significant grants from Atlantic Philanthropies, a matching fund raised by Arthritis Ireland with strong support from the pharmaceutical industry and further support from the HSE to fund the clinical sessions. A call for proposals was sent out to all Irish medical schools in 2008 and, following review by an international committee, University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin were selected to host the first two Chairs of Rheumatology. It is envisaged that the two appointees will collaborate together in creating a centre of excellence for teaching, training and research in rheumatology and will ultimately boost overall patient services and help to improve the lives of patients living with arthritis.
The final stages in the development of this initiative are now being completed and it is expected that the posts for both chairs will be advertised in the near future. Once these appointments have been made, the selected rheumatologists will take up their positions and begin to drive the development of education in rheumatology. This development will also see more patients with musculoskeletal complaints being seen and treated by experts in the field. The Chairs of Rheumatology will be launched next month at Arthritis Ireland’s 30th birthday celebration.