New UF fellowship program to help ease shortage of pediatric rheumatology specialists

The University of Florida College of Medicine is launching Florida’s first fellowship program in pediatric rheumatology for physicians interested in specializing in childhood diseases of the joints, muscles, bones and other internal organs.

An estimated 300,000 children in the U.S. have a rheumatic condition, but there are only 229 pediatric rheumatologists. The state’s first rheumatology training program will join the list of 35 others across the U.S.

“Children with rheumatologic conditions, such as arthritis, which can be very complex and debilitating, face many challenges, including a huge national shortage of rheumatologists,” said Scott Rivkees, M.D., chairman of the department of pediatrics. “By coupling one of the top rheumatology programs in the country with exceptional educational opportunities, we will be able to train the next generation of specialists to care for these special children.”

On July 1, the program received initial accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the national body that certifies post-medical school education in the U.S. A site visit will be conducted within two years, which will confirm the final accreditation status.

Applications are being accepted through October for the inaugural class, which will start in July 2015. The three-year program features two tracks, clinical and research, and is open to physicians who have already completed a general pediatrics residency program. One trainee will be accepted each year.

“The University of Florida is committed to providing pediatric rheumatology fellows with the necessary knowledge and clinical skills to continue to advance the care of the children with rheumatic conditions in Florida,” said Sukesh Sukumaran, M.D., director of UF’s pediatric rheumatology fellowship program and an assistant professor of pediatrics.

 As the only academic medical center in Florida with more than two board-certified pediatric rheumatologists on staff, UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital is the largest treatment program in the state. UF Health practitioners treat more than 2,000 patients from 50 of the 67 counties in Florida, and the program features a specialized infusion center.