The 20th annual meeting of SPARTAN in Madison in April was also the first in-person meeting after a COVID-19 induced 3-year hiatus and our first hybrid meeting ever. Based on results of the post meeting survey and comments from SPARTAN members, the meeting was a great success that demonstrated the vitality of our organization. Kudos to SPARTAN board members Marina Magrey and Runsheng Wang as well our executive director Lisa Spiegel for their hard work organizing an excellent meeting.
The keynote address by Ellen Gravallese and the year-in-review session, a feature introduced during the pandemic, were well received. A definite highlight of the meeting was the debate between Walter Maksymowych and Michael Ward whether a single diagnosis of axSpA should replace the separate entities of AS and non-radiographic axSpA. I look forward to future debates about controversial topics in the SpA field.
This year’s recipient of the SPARTAN Research Career Achievement Award was Jim Rosenbaum, longtime member and a former director of SPARTAN. Dr. Rosenbaum has made major scientific contributions to understanding the immunology of spondyloarthritis and uveitis. He is also an educator and scientific storyteller par excellence. A role model in many respects. Congratulations on this award!
The meeting was again preceded by a one-day trainee symposium. Even though there was competition from an ACR event taking place at the same time we had a significant audience of both live and virtual participants. The trainee symposium has become a staple of the SPARTAN annual meeting providing high-quality and up-to-date education on disease mechanisms, assessment and treatment of SpA. Hopefully, we will be able to reach even more rheumatology fellows (and other professionals involved in SpA care and research) in the future. A big thank you to Tiffany Lin, Mohamad Bittar and the other members of the education committee lead by Maureen Dubreuil for their excellent work.
Every two years there is a change in leadership of the organization. I would like to thank Judy Smith for successfully steering the SPARTAN ship through the high seas of the COVID-19 pandemic and advancing critical SPARTAN projects during that time. Many thanks also to Liron Caplan who rotated off the board after 9 years of service for his leadership and many contributions to the organization.
The next couple of years will be busy times for SPARTAN. As highlighted during the annual meeting and in this newsletter, the CLASSIC study is coming to a successful close, and the first publication is expected for 2023. We are planning a follow-up study, BASIS, that will use a similar design but focus on the collection of specimens for biomarker discovery. Other ongoing projects include the referral recommendations project led by Maureen Dubreuil, Abhijeet Danve and Atul Deodhar as well as well as the EIDA (Early Identification and Diagnosis of Axial Spondyloarthritis) education project led by Dax Rumsey.
With so many interesting and important projects ongoing, it will be crucial to engage all members, seasoned and junior, in the work of our organization. I am glad that many have responded to the call for committee service. The enthusiasm of the SPARTAN members attending the meeting in Madison was palpable. I already look forward to our next annual meeting in Cleveland in May 2023.
Joerg Ermann, SPARTAN Chair