Over 40 Years of Rheumatology Clinical Research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy

In 1977, Dr. Matthew Liang founded the clinical research group in rheumatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).  The original funding for this group derived from the NIH Multipurpose Arthritis Center program.  Dr. Lawren Daltroy, a behavioral scientist, joined Dr Liang in 1982, and they pursued several innovative behavioral trials focusing on lupus, back pain, and Lyme disease. The faculty grew during the 1980s and 1990s with the addition of Drs. Jeffrey Katz, Nancy Shadick, and Elizabeth Karlson.

In 2002, Dr. Katz took over as Chief, and renamed the group the Section of Clinical Sciences.  During his tenure, the Section expanded its funding base, pursued collaboration with the Nurses’ Health Study on rheumatoid arthritis, and and began work on orthopaedic studies using Medicare data. The training environment grew and an increasing number of clinical fellows chose clinical sciences as their professional track.

Dr. Daniel Solomon was appointed Chief in 2007 as Dr. Katz expanded his role in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at BWH.  Over the last decade, the Section has expanded to include 12 faculty, eight trainees (post-docs and fellows), and a staff of 25.  Research funding now encompasses a wide range of NIH, foundation, and industry support, totaling $10 million dollars in 2017. The Section has recently moved to the new Hale Building for Transformative Medicine, co-locating with the rheumatology basic sciences, facilitating the burgeoning area of translational research.

The Section now comprises mature programs in a wide variety of areas, including the Lupus Program led by Dr. Karen Costenbader; the Rheumatic Diseases Epidemiology Center led by Dr. Elizabeth Karlson; the BRASS Registry co-led by Drs. Nancy Shadick and Michael Weinblatt; the P30/VERITY Course led by Dr. Jeffrey Sparks; a bioinformatics program led by Dr. Katherine Liao; and a Disparities Program led by Dr. Candace Feldman.  These programs and centers are supported by two biostatisticians – Drs. Bing Lu and Jing Cui – who supervise a large team of statistical analysts.

The flourishing academic productivity of the Section reflects its growth and maturation.  In 2014, Section faculty co-authored 112 publications, with an output that grew to 148 in 2017.   “We have an outstanding group of first-rate nationally recognized clinical scientists,” said Dr. Solomon. “We anticipate further expansion into new areas of clinical research.”