Former ACR President Receives College’s Highest Award Honor
October 18, 2023 | ACR News
ATLANTA – Ellen Gravallese, MD, will receive the American College of Rheumatology’s (ACR) Presidential Gold Medal during ACR Convergence 2023, the College’s annual meeting. The award reflects Dr. Gravallese’s outstanding contributions to the advancement of rheumatology.
“I am incredibly grateful to the ACR for this award, and I am humbled by the list of those who came before me,” said Gravallese, Theodore Bevier Bayles professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of the division of rheumatology, inflammation, and immunity division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Receiving this honor is one of the highlights of my career.”
The Presidential Gold Medal is the highest award that the ACR can bestow and is awarded in recognition of outstanding achievements in rheumatology over an entire career. Established by the past presidents of the ACR, recipients of this award have made important contributions in multiple areas such as clinical medicine, research, education, or administration. The Rheumatology Research Foundation provides funding support for this award.
Gravallese has dedicated much of her career to research on the fundamental mechanisms of inflammation and joint destruction in inflammatory arthritis. Her laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital elucidated key cell types and pathways by which inflammation impacts bone in rheumatic diseases — work that helped launch the field of “Osteoimmunology”.
“I feel extremely grateful to be a part of all the scientific discoveries that have occurred, not just in my laboratory but in many laboratories across the country and the world,” said Gravallese. “It’s incredible to have worked at a time when there have been so many important advances in our field.”
Gravallese also notes the value of the research funding she and her teams received from the ACR’s Rheumatology Research Foundation (RRF), emphasizing that she has “personally benefitted tremendously from RRF grants that supported my early career and that now support so many of the talented junior faculty in my division.”
“My time volunteering at the ACR was so personally valuable, working on issues that are important to the field and having the opportunity to collaborate closely with so many incredible people.
Gravallese, an active ACR volunteer since 1990, served as the College’s 83rd president during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. When the global pandemic began, Gravallese and her colleagues were instrumental in providing rheumatologists, and rheumatology healthcare professionals, and their patients with sound, scientific guidance to navigate a challenging time.
“We wrote clinical guidance for adults, pediatric patients, and pediatric patients with multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). We also addressed the problems that the practicing rheumatologists were facing – how to see patients safely, address financial issues, how to use telemedicine, and how to apply for federal stimulus relief,” she said. “But it was seeing the coming together of everyone in the field to work on all of these issues that was so rewarding – this is one of the reasons I love being a rheumatologist.”
In addition to supporting the development of clinical guidance during the pandemic, Gravallese served as one of the ACR’s primary spokespersons for on-the-record, medically based comments to publicly address COVID-19's impact on immunocompromised patients with rheumatic conditions and the issues rheumatologists were battling.
“We could not have had a better person in the role at that time,” said ACR President Douglas White, MD, PhD. “Not only did she guide the ACR in pivoting to provide virtual education to rheumatologists – both COVID-19-related education and other important training—but she helped to define the role of the rheumatologist in treating COVID-19 patients at her institution. Her extraordinary leadership was necessary as she calmly and decisively took the wheel and steered us through the storm, all while creating a space for the whole team to rally and respond to the urgent needs of our community and our patients.”
Gravallese is a graduate of Harvard College and earned her medical degree from Columbia University. She completed her residency in internal medicine and pathology and her fellowship in rheumatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). Gravallese was recruited as a professor of medicine and Chief of the Division of Rheumatology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where she served for 13 years. She returned to BWH as chief of the division of rheumatology, inflammation, and immunity and joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School as a professor of medicine. Currently, she serves as an associate editor at the New England Journal of Medicine and is co-editor of the textbook Rheumatology. She has mentored dozens of graduate and medical students, residents, and postdoctoral fellows, overseeing their training awards and leading them toward successful independent careers, and she lectures nationally and internationally.
The ACR’s Membership and Awards Committee, a joint committee composed of both ACR and ARP volunteers, reviews all nomination submissions. Nominees are considered for an award based on criteria that ranges from their academic and scholarly representation to their rheumatology service record both inside and outside the College.
About ACR Convergence
ACR Convergence, the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, is where rheumatology meets to collaborate, celebrate, congregate, and learn. With more than 240 sessions and thousands of abstracts, it offers a superior combination of basic science, clinical science, business education and interactive discussions to improve patient care.
About the American College of Rheumatology
Founded in 1934, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) is a not-for-profit, professional association committed to advancing the specialty of rheumatology that serves nearly 8,500 physicians, health professionals, and scientists worldwide. In doing so, the ACR offers education, research, advocacy and practice management support to help its members continue their innovative work and provide quality patient care. Rheumatology professionals are experts in the diagnosis, management and treatment of more than 100 different types of arthritis and rheumatic diseases.
About the Association of Rheumatology Professionals
The Association of Rheumatology Professionals (ARP) is a division of the American College of Rheumatology built by rheumatology professionals, for rheumatology professionals. Our goal is to empower rheumatology professionals by providing education, advocacy, and practice management tools.