History of Pediatric Rheumatology

While Pediatric Rheumatology was not designated as a distinct subspecialty until the early 1990s, Department of Pediatrics faculty were caring for children, teens, and young adults with autoimmune issues a half-century earlier. Significant attention was paid to rheumatic fever and its complications, and with good reason: During the early to mid-1940s—and prior to the availability of penicillin to treat streptococcal infections—Colorado had one of the highest counts in the nation of school children diagnosed with rheumatic fever.

National Jewish Hospital soon became a key site for the region’s advanced rheumatology treatment and research. A formal partnership with the University of Colorado School of Medicine also made it the primary setting for pediatric specialty training in rheumatology, allergy, and immunology. This relationship continued until the School of Medicine’s relocation to the new Fitzsimons (now Anschutz) Medical Campus. At that time, the decision was made to fully integrate rheumatology-related clinical care, research, education, and advocacy in the new environment. 

Today’s Section of Rheumatology focus spans the comprehensive care of children, teens, and young adults with a variety of common and rare inflammatory disorders affecting children, including juvenile idiopathic arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, vasculitis, scleroderma, juvenile dermatomyositis, and other immune dysregulation syndromes. Children’s Hospital Colorado is home to the only team of pediatric rheumatologists in the surrounding seven-state region, and receives patients referred by their physicians, health departments, inpatients providers, and by parents, themselves.

More than 5,000 patients are seen annually by the inpatient and outpatient rheumatology providers at the main hospital on the Anschutz medical campus, and at outreach sites including the Colorado Springs, North (Broomfield), and South (Highlands Ranch) campuses.

Over the past 30 years, Pediatric Rheumatology specialists such as Roger Hollister, MD—first Section Head of Pediatric Rheumatology—have overseen implementation of remarkable improvements in both diagnostics and treatments ushered in by advances in immunology and genetic research, while acknowledging the still-challenging, multisystem aspects of these conditions. Given the multispecialty nature of rheumatology care, Department of Pediatrics residents benefit from a close integration of activities between Children’s Hospital Colorado, the University of Colorado Hospital and the adult and pediatric academic research and training programs based in the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Key developments in the last decade have included implementation of a Pediatric Rheumatology Fellowship program to help meet the growing need for providers nationally, and more specifically in the Mountain West, and the creation of specialty programs focused on unique patient groups. Megan Curran, MD, was recruited from Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago in 2018 to serve as program director and continues in this role.

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