Breaking Barriers to Recruit Pediatric Rheumatologists

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There is a shortage of doctors who specialize in treating children with musculoskeletal, autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. These specially trained physicians are pediatric rheumatologists, and the shortage is expected to get worse in the next 20 years. Some states don’t have any pediatric rheumatologists, forcing families to drive for hours for their child’s care.

Jay Mehta, MD, Program Director of the Pediatric Rheumatology Fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia conducted a study to find out why people do and don’t choose to become pediatric rheumatologists and what can be done to increase the number of pediatric residents who choose to go into rheumatology, and how early career pediatric rheumatologists can be better supported. With a Clinician Scholar Educator Award from the Rheumatology Research Foundation, Dr. Mehta conducted interviews with pediatric fellows and residents to learn more about their experiences. The researchers hope to find ways to improve mentorship and training for pediatric rheumatologists so that more people will choose this career path.

“Early-career pediatric rheumatologists often suffer from a lack of mentorship and local role models, adding to their baseline concerns about job stability,” Dr. Mehta said. “Just knowing that there is a lack of mentorship doesn’t tell us what kind of mentorship an individual resident or fellow might find most helpful. Another obstacle is a lack of formal training in career counseling for most fellowship training directors.”

By understanding what motivates residents to pursue a career in pediatric rheumatology, Dr. Mehta feels that better recruitment tools can be used to recruit more people into the field. He believes this will provide some relief for patients and their families with better access to pediatric rheumatologists, and maybe they won’t have to travel so far to get the treatment they deserve. Furthermore, by understanding how early career pediatric rheumatologists can be best supported, they can provide the best care possible to the children who need it most.

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