#ACR15 Wrap Up: Review Course, Tech Med Track, Tweetup, #RheumJC, San Francisco Food, & More

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”We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle

#ACR15 marked the eighth consecutive American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting that I have been fortunate enough to attend. I had the feeling of coming full circle, since the first ACR meeting I ever attended (when I was just a chief resident) was the 2008 meeting, also held in the wonderful city of San Francisco.

As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, since this meeting is the biggest thing in rheumatology each year, I spend some time thinking about how to optimize my time there, which results in an incredibly full schedule.

Review Course

”Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty—some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain.” — Richard Feynman

The pre-meeting ACR Review Course is an educational highlight for me each year. Personal favorites were the sessions on Central Nervous System Manifestations of Rheumatic Diseases and Extra-Pulmonary Manifestations of Sarcoidosis, although I’ll eventually need to repeat the A Rational Approach to Dermatology for the Rheumatologist on SessionSelect.

This year, as an alternative to tweeting out main points, I took notes on most of the sessions in Evernote and made them available publicly.

(I format my notes using Markdown, which combines readability with the ability to easily convert them to other formats. Highly suggested if you do any online writing).

Tech Med Track

“I’m interested in things that change the world or affect future in wondrous new technology where you see it and you’re like, ‘How did that even happen? How is that possible?’” — Elon Musk, Wait But Why: The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce

This year, the ACR meeting included a new Tech Med Track that I was fortunate enough to be part of with my talk: Introduction to Automation and Workflows to Save Time and Increase Office Productivity.

Other talks in this track included: – Dr. Suleman Bhana (@DrBhana): Rheumatologist Tested Tech Tools to Use In the Office [pdf] – Dr. Shashank Akerkar (@doctorakerkar): Hashtag: The Power Tool of Twitter [syllabus on Evernote] – Dr. Christopher Collins (@RheumPearls): Twitter Chats in Rheumatology (slides available on Evernote via @Larhumato)

Tweet Up

“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” — Bill Gates

We had another great Tweetup this year, and it was great to both catch up with friends from all over the world and finally meet a number of people in person. At the #ACR14 Tweetup, I had mentioned the article “You don’t have to be local,” that discusses the balance between being a local or a global person, and the Tweetup is a great way to keep this in balance, along with a great networking opportunity.

#RheumJC Poster

“Twitter lets me hear from a lot of people in a very short period of time.” — Robert Scoble

The beginning spark of #RheumJC happened last year at #ACR14, and has turned into an overall success, with five well attended journal clubs over the past year, highlighted by our abstract #2217 and poster (available for download on rheumjc.com): #RheumJC: Development, Implementation and Analysis of an International Twitter-Based Rheumatology Journal Club .

During the meeting we discussed plans to improve #RheumJC over the coming year, which will include expanding the organizing team. Keep an eye out for a more official call for anyone interested in helping.

Right now, the best way to make sure you don’t miss anything with #RheumJC is to sign up for our mailing list and to follow us on Twitter at @RheumJC.

Other Stuff You Shouldn’t Miss

  • Dr. Jonathan Hausmann (@hausmannMD) presented Use of Social Media By Rheumatology Fellows in North America (abstract #1012) showing that Twitter was used by a surprising low number of rheumatology fellows at 18%, hypothesizing: “It is possible that warnings about potential harms of social media within healthcare institutions have made rheumatology fellows less likely to engage on these platforms.” Given the strong benefit many of us have seen from the use of Twitter for ongoing education, I agree with suggesting further steps to “examinine the barriers to professional use of social media, as well as educate physicians about its potential benefits.”

  • Dr. Samuel Whittle (@samwhittle) presented Investigation of Environmental Associations of Fibromyalgia Pain Using Twitter Content Analysis (abstract #2296), using a novel method of analyzing Twitter user data: “Sentiment analysis, a computerized linguistic method that uses natural language processing and text analytics to identify subjective information … to quantify the affective content of each included tweet” and correlating this with weather data at the location of each individual tweet. Results showed that humidity increases were the only weather change associated with higher pain (r=0.009, p=0.001). More importantly, this abstract is an amazing example of the vast data available from social media for analysis.

  • The session on Wearable Biosensors to Advance Rheumatology, with talks on Wearable Biosensors and the Quantified Self Movement by Dr. Brennan Spiegel (@BrennanSpiegel) and Applying Biosensors to Advance Clinical and Research Settings in Rheumatology by Dr. Jeffery Curtis (@RADoctor)are both packed with cutting edge insights into how we (and our patients) will be using biosensors in the near future, and where this area may be going. I’ll have to take a second look at this one as well on SessionSelect.

  • The work of CreakyJoints (@CreakyJoints) and Dr. John Cush’s RheumNow (@RheumNow), who are building excellent, evidence based, online communities and resources for patients and rheumatologists respectively. You’ll notice the influence they’ve had (especially @CreakyJoints) at #ACR15 in the statistics below.

Meeting with ABIM Regarding MOC

During the meeting, I volunteered to echo the frustrations of the social media world regarding MOC to the ABIM during a focus group (at 7:15am, no less).

Suffice it to say, we’re quite fortunate that the ACR so strongly supports it’s members with a well written position statement [pdf]. Thank you!

ACR15 Meeting Statistics

Symplur statistics on the #ACR15 meeting showed incredible numbers, with 2400 participants:

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Dr. Tejas Desai (@nephondemand) also provided some excellent analysis (see his timeline for even more):

Meeting Summary on Storify

Dr. Daniela Russi (@Danielaruss) posted this excellent Storify summary of the meeting:

Food in San Francisco

Finally, no trip to SF can pass without mention (or pictures) of some of the amazing food:

Great seafood at Tadich Grill with @DrBhana

A photo posted by Paul Sufka (@psufka) on


A photo posted by Paul Sufka (@psufka) on


A photo posted by Paul Sufka (@psufka) on


A photo posted by Paul Sufka (@psufka) on

Burrito Mojado

A photo posted by Paul Sufka (@psufka) on


A photo posted by Paul Sufka (@psufka) on

#ACR15 Presentation: Introduction to Automation and Workflows to Save Time and Increase Office Productivity

Paul Sufka1 Comment



  1. Parkinson’s law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for it’s completion.”
  2. Decision Fatigue in Physicians and Medicine: The Importance of Routines and Habits: Humans have a finite store of mental energy for making decisions.
  3. Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule): For many phenomena, 20% of invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.
  4. Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle: Categorize tasks by urgent vs not-urgent and important vs not-important.
  5. Batching tasks: Multitasking: Switching costs: Avoid the mental cost and time cost of switching tasks by grouping.
  6. Pomodoro Technique: Break down work into intervals (25 min), separated by short breaks (5 min)
  7. Please Don’t Interrupt: “It takes a while for our brains to get into a focused state where we’re able to concentrate fully on a task without feeling distracted.”

Getting Things Done (GTD)

[Bolded apps below are ones that I personally use. I have no financial relationship with any of these products.]

Task management systems:

Note Taking Apps

Time Trackers

Text Expansion


Keyboard/Trackpad Automation

Password Management/Automation


Automating Meeting Scheduling

Automating and Connecting Your Apps and the Internet

Twitter for Journal Clubs and Medical Education – Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) Grand Rounds

Paul Sufka

Links and notes:

#ACR15 Tweetup – San Francisco

Paul Sufka

“It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.” — Yogi Berra

#ACR15 Tweetup

The Tweetup has become an yearly event at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting, and the use of Twitter at medical conferences is now so ubiquitous that it is indexed and searchable on Symplur, which includes the meeting hashtag for this year: #ACR15.

Twitter has shown huge value in allowing individuals to build their own personal learning network, but nothing compares to forming and strengthening these connections in person at events like the Tweetup. (If you’re relatively introverted like me, I highly suggest this YouTube video on networking by Tim Ferriss: How to Rock SXSW in 4 Hours).

At this point, if you’re not using Twitter as a tool for lifelong learning, you’re missing out. Influential physicians such as Dr. Eric Topol (@EricTopol) have discussed how Twitter has helped him maximize his productivity, and the Dean of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Jeffrey Flier (@jflier), was recently profiled about the value of Twitter in the Wall Street Journal.

As Dr. Bryan Vartabedian has written, we’ve reached the point of application of social media:

”We’ve reached a point where social media is now part of the professional workflow. While it’s a minority that understand and leverage these tools, the ones who are onboard are helping reshape the image of our organizations and our profession. Those of us creating, curating and conversing in the great wide open will continue to benefit from our public presence.”

If you’re new to Twitter, don’t worry. A quick primer can be found in last year’s ACR Social Media Bootcamp presentations:

The goal of the Tweetup is always to give people a chance to connect on the topic of social media in rheumatology and medicine. Every year, it leads me to new projects such as #RheumJC, the recently formed Rheumatology Twitter-Based Journal Club. I hope others find similar opportunities from attending.

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the Tweetup!

DreamRCT: Role of Rituximab in Lupus Nephritis?

Paul Sufka


[This post can also be found on MedPageToday]

The DreamRCT Initiative is a project by Dr. Jordan Weinstein (@drjjw) of UKidney and Dr. Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) of pbfluids.com and #NephJC.

The project points out that nephrology has the fewest randomized controlled clinical trials of any subspecialty in medicine, and hopes to bring interest to areas where gaps in knowledge are most lacking.

In the area where nephrology intersects with rheumatology, we have actually been quite fortunate. The two conditions in this area which carry the highest burden are ANCA-associated vasculitis and lupus nephritis. For ANCA-associated vasculitis, we have been fortunate to have recently well performed RCTs regarding the use of rituximab for induction of remission and maintenance as well as treatment of relapses.

We have also made recent advances in our understanding of therapies for induction of lupus nephritis, with studies looking at the role of tacrolimus as monotherapy or as part of a multitarget therapy regimen along with MMF.

Despite this, one of the biggest questions rheumatologists and nephrologists have regarding lupus nephritis is: why the heck doesn’t rituximab seem to work in bigger RCTs?

My entry for DreamRCT: RoRo-LuN (Role of Rituximab only in Lupus Nephritis):

Previous studies looking at the role of rituximab for the treatment of lupus nephritis have been highly criticized for poor design. Initial data from the RITUXILUP group (rituximab and IV methylprednisolone on days 1 and 15 with background MMF but no oral steroids) have been extremely promising, but many patients cannot tolerate MMF, and the role of rituximab as monotherapy given over 6 month intervals will remain uncertain. RoRo-LuN would randomize patients with biopsy proven class III or IV lupus nephritis to one of three arms to be followed over 2 years, with the primary endpoint to be renal remission defined as normal creatine or return to baseline creatinine, inactive urinary sediment, and urine protein/creatinine ≤0.5. Group 1: rituximab without oral steroids (rituximab 1 g on weeks 0 & 2, 26 & 28, 52 & 54, 78 & 80, IV methylprednisolone 1 g on weeks 0 and 2); group 2: same as group 1 but with the addition of tapering oral steroids over 6 months; group 3: standard therapy (initial pulse steroids, MMF, tapering oral prednisone).


Unfortunately, despite clinical experience by clinicians and promising reports in many smaller studies, larger RCTs have not shown effectiveness of rituximab against lupus and lupus nephritis. However, these studies have been extensively criticized for their trial design as the reason for failures.

The first of the larger RCTs evaluating the role of rituximab in lupus was the EXPLORER trial, which looked at patients that did not have renal involvement. This trial randomized 257 patients with moderate-severe SLE (on one background immunosuppresive [methotrexate, azathioprine, or MMF], with 57% of patients corticosteroid deponent) to rituximab infusions or placebo at a ratio of 2:1 on days 1, 15, 168, and 182. The primary endpoint was the effect of achieving and maintaining clinical response at week 52, assessed using BILAG, was not met. The EXPLORER trial was criticized for having a small number of participants, confounding background immunosuppressives, and for questions regarding the ability of BILAG to detect a meaningful clinical response.

Following this, the LUNAR trial looked at 144 patients with class III or IV lupus nephritis being treated with MMF and corticosteroids, and randomized them 1:1 to receive rituximab or placebo on days 1, 15, 168, and 182. The primary endpoint was a 20% superior renal response in the rituximab group at week 52. Again, the primary endpoint was not met, although overall response rates were 56.9% in the rituximab group compared to 45.8% in placebo. Failure to meet the primary endpoint was thought due to faulty design due to background immunosuppressives confounding any benefit of rituximab, as well as being underpowered.

Interestingly, 78-week follow up data to the LUNAR trial did suggest that rituximab had a longer term effect, with improved proportion of patients who had remission of proteinuria and fewer patients who required additional immunosuppression:

”In LUNAR, the exploratory data demonstrated that at week 52, the difference (10%) in the proportion of patients with 50% reduction in proteinuria favored rituximab treatment; the difference increased to 17% at week 78 (P = 0.04).”

”The other compelling suggestion of a benefit is the finding that significantly (P < 0.01) fewer patients in the rituximab group required cyclophosphamide for worsening disease, and more achieved a renal domain BILAG C score, and this was sustained up to 78 weeks.”

The currently ongoing RITUXILUP trial hopes to avoid oral steroids entirely in patients with class III/IV or V lupus nephritis while determining whether rituximab is an effective therapy when added to maintenance MMF. In this regimen, patients are given two doses of rituximab (1 g) and methylprednisolone (500 mg) on days 1 and 15, and maintenance treatment with MMF, compared to standard therapy using initial IV methylprednisolone, MMF, and tapering oral steroids. This trial is powered to show superiority non-inferiority of the Rituxilup regimen, with patients followed for at least 2 years, and should be completed in 2018.

Initial data from the first 50 patients treated with the Rituxilup regiment has been extremely promising, with 90% (45/50) patient achieving complete or partial remission by a median of 37 weeks, including 72% (36/50 achieving complete remission by a median of 36 weeks, low incidence of systemic lupus flares, and infrequent adverse events.

Online Roundup and Upcoming Projects

Paul Sufka

2015-07-18 11.38.13-640x

“Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” — Steve Jobs

Here’s a quick roundup of things I’ve been up to around the web, and my other active projects.

RheumJC stuff:

Be sure to look out for our abstract at ACR this year!

The Rheumatology Podcast stuff:

After a brief hiatus, we recently discussed the newly released 2015 Recommendations for the Management of PMR.

Fun stuff:

Social media stuff:

Mentions on HCPDOLS.com (Healthcare Professional Digital Opinion Leaders):

Upcoming ACR15 stuff:

More details to come in future posts, but a short summary of what’s coming for ACR 2015:

  • I’ll be speaking at on the new TechMed track at ACR15 in San Francisco (along with Dr. Suleman Bhana (@DrBhana) on Sunday, November 8, 2015 from 2:30–4:00 PM on Tech Tools for Rheumatologists: Introduction to Automation and Workflows to Save Time and Increase Office Productivity.
  • This will be followed shortly after by the annual #ACR15 Tweetup from 4:30–6:00 PM in the West Building Rm 2000–2002. If you’re unfamiliar with the Tweetup, check out my post from last year.

Upcoming Experimental stuff:

I’m in the beginning (soft-beta-pre-launch) phase of a new site I’m calling ArthritisProject.com, which I hope to turn into a more structured educational resource for patients to learn about their arthritis. If you’re a patient interested in this, sign up for the mailing list on the site, where I’ll push out updates as they’re available.

Twitter Journal Clubs

Paul Sufka

Thank you for asking me to present at the 2015 Metro Minnesota Council on Graduate Medical Education (MMCGME) Coordinator Conference.

Conference hashtag: #2015GMEConf

Unfortunately, I’m not able to give this presentation in person, but given the topic I’ve been asked to discuss, it seems appropriate to be done virtually.

If anyone has questions that relate to this presentation, I would be happy to answer via the Twitter (@psufka) or the comments below.

(Link to slides on SlideShare)

Links from presentation:

How I Keep Myself on a Low Information Diet by Following More People on Twitter

Paul Sufka

Photo by Jeremy Cai from Unsplash.com.

“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I previously wrote about using Dunbar’s number to decide how many people you should follow on Twitter. A year later, I still feel Twitter quickly becomes increasingly less useful as you try to closely follow many more than 150–200 users.

In hopes of keeping myself on a low information diet, I had long avoided using Twitter lists by trying to carefully curate who I followed in my main timeline.

Over time, the task of limiting the number of users I followed became impossible while working on projects such as The Rheumatology Podcast and #RheumJC, and connecting with related groups such as #NephJC.

Recently, I discovered a service called Nuzzel, which curates the most frequently shared stories from your timeline. In their words:

“We created Nuzzel to solve the problems of social overload. You can use Nuzzel to discover the best news stories shared by your friends on Facebook and Twitter without being overwhelmed or missing anything.”

Because of Nuzzel, I have actually found it useful to follow more people in my areas of interest (healthcare/rheumatology, technology, fitness), and let the service automatically curate the most frequently tweeted stories.

After following more users on Twitter, I finally started using Twitter lists. Since the methods built into Twitter (and my beloved Tweetbot) are not extremely useful for reorganizing significant numbers of users into Twitter lists, I found twitlistmanager.com extremely helpful for managing this task.

The advantage of using Twitter lists because of Nuzzel is that it easily allows me to keep the number of people in any of my lists well under 100 (maintaining my monkeyshere), while still allowing me to find the shared stories of highest importance.

Announcing the Successful Launch of #RheumJC: Rheumatology Journal Club on Twitter

Paul Sufka


Although still in it’s infancy, I’m happy to announce the successful launch of a new Rheumatology Journal Club on Twitter: #RheumJC. We just completed the our first online discussion of Tacrolimus versus mycophenolate mofetil for induction therapy of lupus nephritis and had a great turnout, with 519 tweets on the day of the journal club (summary available here). We thank the BMJ publishing group at the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases for contributing to our success by making this article open access for our discussion.

The founding members of the #RheumJC team include Dr. Chris Collins (@RheumPearls), Dr. Suleman Bhana (@DrBhana), Dr. Aruni Jayatilleke (@rheumed), Dr. Jonathan Hausmann (@hausmannMD) and myself (@psufka).

We look forward to hosting further journal clubs on a regular basis.

Be sure to follow @RheumJC on Twitter and our blog at RheumJC.com.

If you would like to be involved in #RheumJC or have any other feedback or suggestions, please let us know via Twitter.

My 2015 WordPress Setup

Paul Sufka

WordPress Setup

”I don’t have big ideas. I sometimes have small ideas, which seem to work out.” – Matt Mullenweg

I previously detailed my WordPress setup, but over the last few weeks, I have given my site (another) overhaul worthy of an updated blog post.

New WordPress Theme

I recently switched to the X WordPress Theme. This theme comes with four different minimalist style layouts that help focus on blog readability over everything else, yet remain easily and highly customizable through the built-in WordPress customizer. I’ve played with a ton of different WordPress themes, and for a premium theme, this one is as easy as they come. If you want to make any very specific modifications, you may need to learn a little bit of CSS and/or PHP.

Strong Focus on Increasing Site Speed

The speed that your site loads is highly important for two reasons:

  1. Improved experience for readers (better chance that readers will actually read your writing). According to KISSmetrics:

”47 percent of visitors expect a website to load in less than 2 seconds, and 40 percent of visitors will leave the website if the loading process takes more than 3 seconds.”

  1. Improved SEO. While I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how to optimize for SEO (I’ve written before that the 80/20 of SEO is to write good content and write accurate blog titles), it is worthwhile to know that Google PageRank pays attention to site speed.

You can check your site’s speed according to Google and get general tips on how to optimize at Google PageSpeed Insights.

Unfortunately, many of the tips offered by Google are difficult to know exactly how to optimize. Besides having your site hosted on a fast server, the lowest hanging fruit are easily solved with a few WordPress plugins:

  • W3 Total Cache. [Update 01/19/2015: I’m going back to using WP Super Cache because of problems with W3 Total Cache causing problems (although I had no trouble removing it).] WordPress cache plugins work to minimize load on your sever by having static copies of your site cached and ready to send to readers. I previously had used and recommended WP Super Cache, but recently switched given W3 Total Cache’s ability to minify and compress JavaScript, CSS, and HTML, which results in greater performance. Making this switch increased my PageSpeed scores by about 20, and most comparisons I found shows that it seems to be just a bit faster. Despite offering better performance, W3 Total Cache is more complex to set up, whereas WP Super Cache only really requires you to turn it on or off [Update 01/19/2015: although turning on the advanced setting to compress pages is also helpful, if your server can handle it]. In either case, you should have a WordPress cache plugin running on your site.
  • WP-Optimize. This plugin actually increased my PageSpeed score by 10–14 points, and works by removing any excess junk such as comment metadata in your WordPress pages.
  • Smush.It. This optimizes images in several lossless ways, such as stripping JPEG metadata and optimizing compression. The free version can “smush” image files under 1MB.
  • BJ Lazy Load. This plugin uses a jQuery script to improve site loading by delaying loading of any images files until just as the reader has scrolled down to that image.
  • No longer using: WP deferred javaScript and Use Google Libraries. These plugins actually slowed my site and caused problems with BJ Lazy Load, likely having to do with loading jQuery from a different server and/or interfering with W3 Total Cache.


Security and Backup

Other Recommendations

  • WP Hide Post gives you better ability to control the visibility of posts/pages on your blog and comes in handy occasionally.
  • Unchanged recommendation: Contact Form 7 is still the best and most popular contact form.


I’m always curious to hear if anyone has any better recommendations for WordPress plugins. If you have any suggestions, add it to the comments.