UF program aims to train more pediatric rheumatologists
Published: Monday, August 11, 2014 at 3:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 11, 2014 at 3:30 p.m.
The University of Florida College of Medicine is establishing a new fellowship to help fill the long-standing national shortage of pediatricians specializing in childhood arthritis and other muscle, joint and bone conditions.
The fellowship in pediatric rheumatology received initial accreditation on July 1 and will begin training its first doctor in July 2015.
UF officials say it will be the first program of its kind in the state and one of only three dozen pediatric rheumatology fellowship programs across the country.
The need is there, advocacy and medical groups say. The nonprofit Arthritis Foundation estimates that 300,000 children in the country have arthritis, lupus or another rheumatic condition. There are less than 250 board certified pediatric rheumatologists specially trained to treat those children and most are practicing in and around large cities, the Arthritis Foundation said.
“There are huge national shortages in this one particular discipline, and these conditions can be extremely debilitating for children,” said Dr. Scott Rivkees, the chairman of the department of pediatrics and the physician in chief at UF Shands Children’s Hospital.
As of Dec. 31, 2013, eight states had no board certified pediatric rheumatologists, according to the American Board of Pediatrics. Florida has less than 10 and three are at UF, said Dr. Melissa Elder professor of pediatrics and chief of pediatric immunology, rheumatology and infectious diseases.
The three physicians at UF see in the range of 2,500 children a year from all around Florida, she said. Elder said she’s hopeful that, along with training new doctors to address the national shortage, the new fellowship will allow UF to bring more faculty to manage its large patient load.
Rivkees said the UF program will build upon the extensive experience of the doctors at UF to “train the next generation of specialists.” He said it will be the third specialized training program the department of pediatrics has introduced since his arrival 2½ years ago, joining pediatric neurology and child protection.
The three-year fellowship program in pediatric rheumatology includes both clinical and research training. It is open to doctors who have already completed their three-year general residency. The fellowship program will enroll one doctor each year.
For more information go online to www.residency.pediatrics.med.ufl.edu/fellowships/fellowship-programs/rheumatology.
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