The Worldwide Community of Rheumatologists (Part 3: European Edition)

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“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

This is a continuation of a series of series of posts where I have been profiling some of the most active rheumatologists in social media. Be sure to check out part 1 and part 2.

I’ll keep the intro short since this is a longer post that profiles five rheumatologists in Europe: Spain, Ireland, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Germany.

Also, I put together a Twitter list of the rheumatologists in this series, to make things easier to follow.


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Name: Dr. Jose Campos
Twitter: @JoseCamposMD

1. Briefly tell us about your background/training in medicine. Did you have any prior career before/outside medicine?

I obtained my MD at Complutense University of Madrid (Spain) in 1998, and before I started my Rheumatology residency at Clinica Puerta de Hierro (Madrid) (2005-2009), I completed a Clinical Immunology residency at Ramon y Cajal Hospital (Madrid) from 2000 to 2004. On 2008 Puerta de Hierro Hospital moved to Majadahonda, a neighbouring city about 20km from Madrid, and since 2009 when I finished my Residency I work as Staff Physician at the Rheumatology Dept, with a temporary contract signed each 3 to 9 months, and as Associate Researcher for the Spanish Network on Inflammation & Rheumatic Disorders.

2. Where are you located? If someone were to visit from another country, what 2-3 things would you want them to see or do where you live?

I live in Central Madrid (Chamartin neighbourhood), which is better known for harbouring Santiago Bernabeu Soccer Stadium, home of Real Madrid team, which is a must visit for soccer fans (not for me, as I support Atletico de Madrid). Madrid has plenty of word famous tourist attractions, and if I had to choose just three, I would recommend a visit to the “Arts Triangle” (Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Queen Sofia Museum) near Paseo de la Castellana (Castilian´s mall), a visit to Royal Palace and Our Lady of Almudena Cathedral near Plaza de Oriente (best sights of our little Manzanares river, with a huge recently renovated state-of-the-art park surrounding it) and a Sunday morning walk from Gran Via (Main St) to the Rastro (flea market) ending with an informal “tapas” meal. (Hope to see you in EULAR congress this year!)

3. What languages do you speak?

I speak Spanish as my mother tongue and I am fluent in English (but feel I am not as good as a I was when I lived in the US, from 4 to 6 years old!)

4. Is there anything unique about practicing rheumatology where you live (advantages, difficulties, etc)?

Working for the Spanish National Health System under state-tax-funded Social Security, which brings full coverage and access to all Spanish residents, has been a great privilege over the years. For example, access to biologic therapies has been self audited by each Department on the basis of the Spanish Society for Rheumatology guidelines, and so has been access to MRI and other medical technologies (despite variable waiting lists). However, things began to change in the last couple of years due to economic crisis, and practicing is becoming harder as new fees for medications, restrictions on biologic therapies and even exclusion from health cover for some groups are being implemented.

5. Any interests or hobbies outside of rheumatology that you would like to mention?

My (scarce) time outside work is for my family (I am a proud father of three, two girls-8 &4y.o.- and a boy that was born just a month ago) and for practising and enjoying sports. I have been an associated amateur 7-a side-soccer player for the last 20 years (it become to an end this season…) but the sport I have liked most is rugby, which I played on my Med School years. From now on, it is time for paddle tennis and jogging…I spare golf for the next decade.

6. What types of social media do you use most frequently? Which are the most useful?

I am active on Facebook for personal use and on twitter for professional matters. Both are very useful… but time-consuming!

7. Has social media affected how you practice rheumatology? If so, how?

Undoubtedly, but quite indirectly yet. What I value most is getting direct access to locomotor system specialists (not only Rheumatologists) from all over the world, and the never ending chat that is always on. (And of course plenty of people and matters outside medicine…)

8. Do you have a blog? If so, how often do you blog? What do you try to write about?

Not yet… It is one of my New Year resolutions…


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Name: Dr. Ronan Kavanagh
Twitter: @RonanTKavanagh
Blog: www.ronankavanagh.ie

1. Briefly tell us about your background/training in medicine. Did you have any prior career before/outside medicine?

I am an Irish (Galway) medical graduate and did my most of my postgraduate training and research in Cambridge in the UK. I have been an accredited rheumatologist since 1998.

2. Where are you located? If someone were to visit from another country, what 2-3 things would you want them to see or do where you live?

I work in full time private practice in a 2 man rheumatology partnership in Galway which is based in the West of Ireland. To experience Galway city at its best, visit in July to soak up the atmosphere at the Macnas parade (as part of the Galway Arts Festival) sipping a pint of Guinness outside Neachtain’s bar before strolling down to Ard Bia restaurant for dinner. Don’t miss Conemara.

3. What languages do you speak?

I speak English, some French and a little Irish (Gaelic). How do you say “hello” in Gaelic?: ‘Dia dhuit’ is the Gaelic for Hello (translated as ‘God be with you)’

4. Is there anything unique about practicing rheumatology where you live (advantages, difficulties, etc)?

I’m very fortunate to be working in the private sector where I feel we can provide a high quality, patient focused service to our patients. Because all Irish citizens are entitled to government financial support for their medications, modern treatments are affordable to most patients.

5. Any interests or hobbies outside of rheumatology that you would like to mention?

I have wide interests outside medicine. My first love would be music. I played keyboards (badly) in a number of bands over the years and I still play for my own enjoyment. I love music, cinema and live comedy. Exercise is a good way of burning off the day for me so I run, cycle and swim a lot. I read most days, like cooking and photography.

6. What types of social media do you use most frequently? Which are the most useful?

Twitter, Facebook, Video (Clear.MD), RSS feeds, Google circles, LinkedIn and the Rheumatology podcast. Twitter is by far the most useful.

7. Has social media affected how you practice rheumatology? If so, how?

The network of people that social media has given me access to and the information that they share have transformed the way I think and practice medicine. It has opened my eyes to, and helped me make surprising connections between, all sorts of seemingly unrelated disciplines and healthcare. It’s all about the collective power of communities to gather, filter and make relevant information for me. I also love the idea of learning medicine while at the same time learning about other stuff. It seems like less of a chore to me now.

8. Do you have a blog? If so, how often do you blog? What do you try to write about?

I have a blog which I update as often as I can – usually once every two weeks or so. I write about anything that comes into my mind but everything from stuff about the practice of medicine, my frustration with big medical conferences, new technologies and social media.

9. Anything else you would like to say that I wouldn’t know to ask about?

To be truly effective rheumatologists we need to look after ourselves too, forgive ourselves for being imperfect and give ourselves a pat on the back from time to time.


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Name: Dr. Michiel Zandbelt
Twitter: @zandbelt
Blog: zandbelt.wordpress.com

1. Briefly tell us about your background/training in medicine. Did you have any prior career before/outside medicine?

I studied Psychology for one year before I started my study Medicine.
After finishing 6 years of Medicine study I continued doing research at the department of Rheumatology for my PhD, and about 4 years later I started my further 6 year specialization to become a Rheumatologist.

2. Where are you located? If someone were to visit from another country, what 2-3 things would you want them to see or do where you live?

I am living in the Netherlands. actually I have never thought of the second question you are asking here. I guess what’s worth visiting in the Netherlands depends very much on the visitor’ s interest cultural stuff in the Capital City of Amsterdam, our expertise on ” water management” constructions and architecture stuff fighting sea levels as a partly below sea level situated small country and finally especially when a colleague decides to come to visit me I would of course show him the region where I live and the hospital where I am working.

3. What languages do you speak?

Dutch, English, German and a bit of French.

4. Is there anything unique about practicing rheumatology where you live (advantages, difficulties, etc)?

In the Netherlands there is an active research community in the field of rheumatology and I dare to say that amongst countries like e.g. Sweden and United Kingdom and France, the Netherlands despite being a small country have a prominent role in the european field of rheumatology. Much effort is also been put in clinimetrics. Although several great databases are emerging it has not yet reached the outstanding level of data gathering taking place in Sweden. Like other countries controlling the rapidly rising costs of health care is a major (political) issue in the Netherlands and thus rheumatologists like elsewhere in the world feel pressure from the government and insurance companies to reduce prescribing expensive biologicals. At the same time of course cutting edge standards of care are wanted, a difficult dilemma. In the Netherlands rheumatologists try to play a sort of pro-active role instead of waiting which measures the government will just decide to role out over them. There is a national study ongoing in which is analysed what happens to patients with stable disease activity on anti-TNF therapy when that therapy is stopped or given in less short interval / frequency. But in general compared to other countries we as rheumatologists have to realize in the Netherlands that our situation is relatively luxury compared to other countries.

5. Any interests or hobbies outside of rheumatology that you would like to mention?

Building and maintaining websites, communicating and learning via social media (professional and personal contacts), photography, running, play chess (online via chess.com), following the (world) news (including some politics every now and then), supporting my favourite dutch soccer club, and last but not least of course my family (wife and children) and helping with their hobbies as well.

6. What types of social media do you use most frequently? Which are the most useful?

Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

7. Has social media affected how you practice rheumatology? If so, how?

So far it hasn’t yet as far as contact with patients concerns, however in an indirect way, by communicating with my colleagues from all over the world, knowledge is shared and can actually be part of my decision-making in daily clinical practice. As such, it indirectly influences my way of practicing rheumatology. I did a 2-year pilot with Twitter and patients being able to ask non-urgent questions via Direct Messages. Only a handful of patients used that opportunity in 2 years time. I feel one does not necessarily need one specific type of social media (just tools) but regardless the tool you choose having an asynchronous way of communicating with patients or colleagues in your hospital is definitely of crucial importance. Questions can be posted and messages can be answered at a time that suits the asking or answering person. One does not have to wait to get connected by phone and the doctor is not interrupted whilst busy with other daily practice work. In essence email or SMS could also serve that objective.

Personally my interests and plans with blogging and social media now move towards education. Social media and weblogs can be a very powerful way of patient education as well as trainees education. A major part of educational material available for patients is still the classic leaflet or handout whether printed or put on a website. There are however numerous people that either cannot read at all or that are just more visual oriented, so I expect a lot more YouTube movies (one way) and also electronic learning via e.g. Google+ Hangouts or other ways of web conferencing (interactive) like e.g. Moodle connected with BigBlueButton. The clear.md startup that Ronan bravely uses as pioneer is one example of hitting the bull’ s eye on the topic I just raised.

8. Do you have a blog? If so, how often do you blog? What do you try to write about?

Yes I have a blog. It is fueled very irregularly, but quality matters more for me then quantity and “having to”. My current blog is in english and rather oriented towards colleagues and other healthcare professionals. It serves as my personal notepad to remember things from scientific meetings or visits to other colleagues by writing a summary out. I share these via my blog, but having written a blog posting the contents are stored in my own brain as well, just like preparing for an exam and writing some abstracts from the books you have read. I do not have a blog aimed at my patients yet (that would be one in Dutch of course), but far more than all of the mentioned social media maintaining a blog really puts you on the map and enables profiling yourself and attracting people towards your site via Google Search results or via social media directing to your blog. Howard Luks, the orthopedic surgeon with his excellent continuously evolving website is of great inspiration for me when I would start a patient oriented weblog.

 


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Name: Dr. Philip Gardiner
Twitter: @PhilipGardiner
Blog: www.philipgardiner.me.uk

1. Briefly tell us about your background/training in medicine. Did you have any prior career before/outside medicine?

I didn’t have a career before going into medicine, but I was brought up in India and as a lad I sometimes helped my dad count pills in the village hospital where he worked. I trained in Queen’s University Belfast, did my postgraduate training in N. Ireland and my postgraduate research in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. One of my rheumatology mentors as a ‘resident’ or junior doctor in Belfast was Stanley Roberts, a great character and an inspiration to a generation of trainees.

2. Where are you located? If someone were to visit from another country, what 2-3 things would you want them to see or do where you live?

I live in Londonderry/Derry, which is currently the UK ‘City of Culture’ – so that would be a great place to visit this year! From here you can take a trip into the ‘wilds’ of Donegal, or follow in the footsteps of the mythical giant Finn McCool at the Giant’s Causeway in Antrim. Or you could visit the new Titanic museum in Ulster’s second city, Belfast!

3. What languages do you speak?

English. Sadly, I’m not multi-lingual!

4. Is there anything unique about practicing rheumatology where you live (advantages, difficulties, etc)?

We’re at the ‘western outpost’ of the UK, and our hospital covers a wide rural area from Coleraine in the North down to Femanagh in the South. We are further from our medical school than any other hospital in NI, and to tackle the logistics we pioneered the use of videoconferencing to help teach our rheumatology students. Doing research far away from university labs has its own challenges, and this has prodded me towards unlikely collaborations with non-medical scientists and broadened my horizons. At the moment I am involved in a project testing the use of datagloves in measuring joint movement in people with arthritis.

5. Any interests or hobbies outside of rheumatology that you would like to mention?

I enjoy photography, kayaking and hill walking.

6. What types of social media do you use most frequently? Which are the most useful?

I use Twitter to link up with other rheumatologists and keep my CME right up to date. I also use LinkedIn and Google+ from time to time.

7. Has social media affected how you practice rheumatology? If so, how?

I have enjoyed the ability to interact with other rheumatologists and share our excitement and/or skepticism about new ideas/research.

8. Do you have a blog? If so, how often do you blog? What do you try to write about?

I did set up one of the first arthritis websites in the mid 1990s (arthritislink.org.uk) – to give patients some basic information about their medication and their condition. It was very much an amateur effort, but people did use it and I kept it going until there were other more up to date and comprehensive web sites available. I also set up the first website for the Irish Society for Rheumatology (www.isr.ie) – which I believe has the distinction of being the shortest domain name of any rheumatology society! Thankfully, the website now has a professional design and oversight! I now write occasional blogs on medical topics when the notion takes me (www.philipgardiner.me.uk). Twitter is useful for letting people know that you have written something new and getting a bit of feedback.


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Name: Dr. Lothar M. Kirsch
Twitter: @Rheumatologe
Blog: rheumatologe.blogspot.com

1. Briefly tell us about your background/training in medicine. Did you have any prior career before/outside medicine?

I started studying Chinese, Social Anthropology and Japanology before studying medicine. I’ve spent 1 ½ years in Taiwan and also did some of my medical internship there. I studied in my home town, Cologne; first I have been involved in Oncology and infectious diseases like HIV. My doctoral thesis treated coping and depression in patients receiving a cardiac pacemaker. Then I changed to Rheumatology.

2. Where are you located? If someone were to visit from another country, what 2-3 things would you want them to see or do where you live?

I live in the Rhine valley and I’d like someone from abroad visit the Cologne Cathedral and the Roman-Germanic Museum next to the cathedral. A short trip to the hilly country (Bergisches Land) East of Cologne would make the day perfect.

3. What languages do you speak?

German, English, Mandarin, French, a little Spanish, Dutch, I’ve learned Latin at grammar school, a smattering of Japanese, rudiments of Italian and Russian, and of course Kölsch.

4. Is there anything unique about practicing rheumatology where you live (advantages, difficulties, etc)?

I practice in the country, in a small town, which is nice and green. Disadvantage is going to work. After work it is easy to relax at the Rhine or in the fields. Patients might have difficulties getting here because of the limited public transport.

5. Any interests or hobbies outside of rheumatology that you would like to mention?

Travel and languages, writing haiku.

6. What types of social media do you use most frequently? Which are the most useful?

I use Twitter and Google+ regularly, sometimes Facebook, but I’m not too fond of Facebook.

7. Has social media affected how you practice rheumatology? If so, how?

Starting twitter made me also start a blog. I use it for information as to put a presentation on the blog after I’ve done the talk. Or I refer to information on my blog to patients, so I know at least what they (also) read and it saves time explaining.

8. Do you have a blog? If so, how often do you blog? What do you try to write about?

I write about Rheumatology in German and English. I publish poems, mostly Haiku in English. And I write about my travels. Recently I’ve started writing on subjects, where patients might be ripped off.

9. Anything else you would like to say that I wouldn’t know to ask about?

Some people think they can reach people with job offers or trying to sell something on twitter. Twitter isn’t a good platform for these purposes. But it’s a great virtual place to meet people with equal interests. Information is spread much quicker than with other media.

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I may add more rheumatologists to this series in the future. If anyone has suggestions (including yourself), please let me know. Thanks!

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