From the founding of the National Psoriasis Foundation to the organization you see today, women have led the way. In June, hundreds will gather in Chicago, IL to honor April Armstrong, M.D., MPH, Dafna Gladman, M.D., and Nicole Ward, Ph.D. for their contributions to the psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis community at the 2022 Commit to Cure Gala: Celebrating Women Who Lead.
We sat down with rheumatologist Dr. Gladman for PsA Action Month to learn more about her journey and the women who inspire her.
Why did you go into rheumatology and research?
I have always been interested in figuring things out, so there was no question that I was going to immerse myself in research within medicine. As for rheumatology, and particularly psoriatic arthritis, I was directed that way by the late Dr. Ricky Schachter, who was then head of dermatology at Women’s College Hospital [Canada's first woman leader of an academic division of dermatology] where I served as Chief Medical Resident during my training. Even while I was in the last 6 months of training in rheumatology, she called me to consult on patients with psoriasis that she was treating in a Psoriasis Day Care Centre, which she established the year before. She recognized that these patients had arthritis, but nobody was looking after them. Having consulted on 40 patients within 4 months, I realized that the patients I was seeing had more severe disease than what I had been taught about psoriatic arthritis, and when I took my staff position, I immediately started a psoriatic arthritis clinic where patients were followed according to a standard protocol. Initially I just wanted to collect information on the disease, but subsequently I wanted to understand the disease process. The rest, as they say, is history.
What moment from your career are you most proud of?
I cannot identify a specific moment. Each accomplishment was important then, but none stand out individually.
When/Why did you get involved with the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF)?
I first got involved with NPF in 2000, after Dr. Philip Mease’s publication of etanercept in psoriatic arthritis. NPF contacted me to participate in a webinar with Dr. Mease to discuss this new therapeutic option. Since then, I have sat on the NPF Medical Board, reviewed grants, participated in several educational opportunities, and received grants myself. I am currently on the Medical Board again.
What do you want people with psoriatic disease to know?
It is important for people to know that we are now able to control the disease effectively for most patients. New therapeutic agents are continuously being developed to support those who do not respond the currently available therapeutic agents. We have learned a lot about the disease, its manifestations, outcomes, and the need to diagnose and treat early to avoid complications. It is important for people to follow their health care provider's advice.
What do you see as the future of psoriatic disease?
As we learn more and more about psoriatic disease, we may be able to identify a cure. This will likely happen within the next decade. We’ll also identify preventive measures which may halt disease development in the first place.
What woman in your life inspires you?
At the present time, I like to think that I inspire more women (and men). However, my mother was a great inspiration in pursuing a medical career, and as I mentioned, Dr. Schachter directed me towards psoriatic arthritis which has been a major component of my career.
[Answers have been lightly edited for clarity and style.]