IRA President’s Message

Chandrashekara S MD, DNB, DM (Clinical Immunology)

Prof and Managing Director, ChanRe Rheumatology and Immunology Center and Research, Bengaluru, Karnataka

Rheumatology in India has been steadily advancing under the leadership of the Indian Rheumatology Association (IRA). Over the past decade, there has been a notable increase in the number of trained and well-experienced rheumatologists. Although this initiative is promising, the target of a sufficient number of rheumatologists is yet to be achieved, especially considering India’s population and the estimated burden of autoimmune diseases.The current trajectory of education and training in the field of rheumatology is indeed promising to build a strong foundation, and we are poised to achieve even more in the upcoming years. 

However, certain challenges persist, such as regional disparities and non-uniformity in training standards. With the increasing number of professionals, the focus needs to shift towards ensuring and maintaining high-quality standards. The second aspect involves increasing the opportunities, considering the growing number of trained rheumatologists. This becomes the next focal point to ensure their appropriate utilization in delivering quality rheumatology care for the benefit of society.

The other domain where India should shine and take the lead is in research. We are a country with an ingrained quest for truth and facts, and research is a fundamental part of our ethos. Surprisingly, however, we are either underrepresented or have failed to project and optimally utilize our talent. It is now the time to raise our bar in this field.

India is ranked between 12 and 17 according to the Scimago Journal Rank (SJR) index for the total output of research papers in rheumatology. However, when considering the rate of publication per rheumatology facility, the index declines and does not meet expectations. While we have achieved a commendable rank in the output of research papers, our journal remains at 53 to 56 throughout these years.

It is disheartening to observe that published papers and their impact on clinical practice and problem-solving are considered a low priority. It is imperative that we, as a society, should come together, pool our collective wisdom, and identify our priority areas. Since numerous factors contribute to this knowledge gap, we should actively support and encourage a research mindset to diligently work towards those goals.

Several challenges need to be addressed and overcome, with the first being the question of “What do I get?”. In academic positions, promotions often influence the publication of research papers, leading to a forced or innate push toward research. However, in private practice, the dilemma of what one gains from a research paper becomes a major concern.  Moreover, the uncertainty of whether the paper will be published in reputable journals adds to the confusion, questioning the value of investing time.

In private practice, another major issue is finance, including the process of funding the work and dealing with a potential negative balance, as it could adversely impact missing certain patients’ consultations. It is time we start inculcating a habit of working on something more, as research adds value to your career and clinical practice. It may appear that patients may not be influenced by your research, but I have been surprised by many of our patients complimenting and indicating that they chose to consult because one is capable and has researched in that field. Further more, beyond the accolades from patients, your peers will recognize and appreciate your valuable contributions.

Research is not always confined to the domain of scientists; it requires the right mindset, and the rest falls into place. Even small contributions can be a game-changer. Each step matters in any journey—some may be a significant leap, others small jumps, and sometimes just inching steps. Small steps forward, no matter how modest, contribute to the momentum of progress. At this moment, I would like to reiterate the phrase: “Doing something is better than nothing.”

Hence, it is time to think about how IRA, AS A SOCIETY, can move forward. The barriers to be addressed by us include:

  • Time management
  • Funds
  • Ethical committee and other regulatory requirements
  • Statistics, data management, and other study-related support
  • Personnel for collaborated activities

IRA is actively providing the necessary funds and personnel required for research, and the allocated funds for this purpose are gradually increasing. To further enhance our capabilities, we are diligently working on establishing a robust support system for statistical and other data management needs. In this regard, we are in the process of creating a comprehensive platform for collaborative research, fostering partnerships not only within our organization but also with other esteemed research institutions.

Our vision extends to encouraging and facilitating researchers to channel their efforts into contributing to our journal. This publication serves as a valuable platform for showcasing the collective achievements of our community. Together, we can take pride in the accomplishments featured in our journal, thereby reinforcing the significance of our contributions to the research landscape.

With your unwavering commitment and cooperation, I aspire to elevate the IRA on the global map of research. Together, we can cultivate an environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, and the dissemination of valuable knowledge within the rheumatology community.

We hope these steps will enhance our standing in research. Your active participation in achieving this goal is solicited.