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By Dr Irwin Lim, Rheumatologist

Thanks to my friend and colleague, Sam Whittle (@samwhittle), for taking this picture.


I find myself increasingly trying to advocate for a higher profile for Rheumatologists.

While this may sound self-serving, and it probably is, there’s other good reasons.

Rheumatology is not a sexy speciality.

Regular folk don’t understand what we actually treat. When they hear that we deal with arthritis, various aches and pains, and autoimmune disease, some are interested but others politely change the topic.

Some go on to tell us about their painful bunion or that dicky knee.

Arthritis is not a high profile topic. It does not tug at the heartstrings in the same way cancer or diseases affecting children do.

You may be surprised to know that many doctors also don’t understand the breadth of conditions rheumatologists treat or the depth of our diagnostic and therapeutic skill.

Rheumatology as a specialty is not as lucrative as procedural specialties such as cardiology or surgery so many younger training doctors are also not looking at it as a career option.

With health systems tightening their budgets everywhere, an outpatient based speciality like rheumatology seems to be slowly being squeezed out of public hospitals in Australia. Given most training of doctors still occurs in hospital, this lack of visibility and lack of mentors for young doctors at a time they are making career choices is troubling.

We need more visibility. More exposure. The limelight.

We need to inspire the next generation of physicians. We need to educate and advocate, directed at both the public and our colleagues.

I believe that a higher profile for rheumatologists is a crucial step in improving the situation for our patients. It will help with quicker diagnosis, better access, more funding.

I’m not sure you agree but I’ll be interested in your thoughts.

Dr Irwin Lim is a rheumatologist and a director of BJC Health. You should follow him on twitter here.
BJC Health’s vision is to create best care for people with arthritis. Contact us.

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