A guiding hand for our early career colleagues

4 minute read

The initiative provides opportunities for a new generation to become involved in leadership

Rheumatology trainees and early career rheumatologists make up approximately a third of the ARA with growing numbers each year. This group can make an important contribution in advocacy roles both within the ARA, as well as other stakeholder groups.  

Early career members involvement in these roles is mutually beneficial, providing them professional development opportunities while they give a unique perspective compared more established rheumatologists; their inclusion is also important in succession planning for these groups. 

Overseas rheumatology associations, most notably EULAR have long appreciated the value in having a dedicated committee to represent the interests of trainees and early career rheumatologists. 

The Emerging Rheumatologists Network (EMEUNET) has been operational for more than 10 years and has more than 2000 members.  It has several established educational and support programs, has representation on EULAR committees and is involved in many EULAR initiatives. For example, it is mandatory for EMEUNET member participation in the development of all of EULAR guidelines and EMEUNET runs social media for Annals of Rheumatic Diseases. 

Closer to home in the Asia Pacific region, APLAR has also recently started an early career group called the APLAR Young Rheumatologists group (AYR).

The ARA Early Career Group (ECG) was formed in 2019 to support the trainees and early career ARA members in the journey through advanced training, as well as transitioning to establishing consultant rheumatology practice. The group also aims to facilitate collaboration and provide opportunities for a new generation to be involved in advocacy and leadership roles.  

The ECG membership includes all rheumatology trainees and early career rheumatologists within eight years of completing their training.  ECG group membership is on an opt-out basis for all eligible ARA members; at present there are more than 180 members.

A steering committee was formed comprising of members from across Australia to organise ECG initiatives. This committee includes, trainees and rheumatologists, practising in both regional and metropolitan areas, and with an appropriate gender balance; our terms of reference dictate that this balance will continue into the future.  

This is a very keen and collegiate group with a wide range of experience including those in private practice, dual trained physicians and with experience in educational and research roles. The current steering committee members are myself, Sudha Raghunath (chair, based in Victoria), Stephanie Bond (secretary, based in Victoria), Rachel Black (South Australia), Leo Kyi (Victoria), David Liew (Victoria), Kelly Morgan (Western Australia), Michael Oliffe (New South Wales), and Alistair Reid (New South Wales).  

The ARA board has been very supportive of ECG endeavours and has provided much advice and practical support. 

The ECG has a number of highly successful initiatives including a social media presence (follow us at https://twitter.com/earlyara), and provides leadership and professional development opportunities. 

The ECG was also very excited to host the first Business for Early Career Rheumatologists event in 2019 to equip rheumatology trainees and early career rheumatologists with the skills needed to run a private practice; we look forward to running more such events in the future.

However, at present the main challenge facing rheumatology trainees and early career rheumatologists is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has affected current trainees and may have flow-on effects on training quality and progression.

It is also important that we continue to support our trainees in 2021 who are sitting the RACP clinical exams during their first year of advanced training. 

The COVID-19 pandemic also has a significant impact on rheumatologists private practice work, which can be especially pronounced for smaller or newer practices.  A lot of work is being done by ARA subcommittees in these areas, and the ECG plays an important role in advocating for and supporting ECG members in these challenging times.

We are keen to collaborate with other groups within the ARA and externally to bring more opportunities to our members.  

If you have any opportunities for us to pass on to the group or ideas for future initiatives we would love to hear from you! 

You can get in touch with us via email at ecg@rheumatology.org.au.

Dr Sudha Raghunath is chair of the Early Career ARA Group. She is currently undertaking a PhD on Cognitive Dysfunction in Lupus (SLE) as well as a Masters in Clinical Education

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