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The Lupus Initiative Unveils Free Curriculum and Education Materials to Advance Care for Patients Fighting Devastating Autoimmune Disease

The Lupus Initiative, a national provider education program led by the American College of Rheumatology, recently announced a new easy-to-use curriculum and tools aimed to help medical professionals advance the diagnosis, treatment, and management of lupus. Lupus is a devastating, difficult-to-diagnose autoimmune disease that primarily affects women and people of color. The curriculum for medical and health profession schools and resources for practicing professionals was announced at “Taking Action Against Lupus,” an event that took place May 16 in Washington, DC. The event was held in honor of Lupus Awareness Month and National Women's Health Week.
Lupus can often be difficult to diagnose because it can affect any organ in the body and can present a wide-range of symptoms common to multiple diseases. According to a survey of Lupus Foundation of America members, more than half of lupus patients suffered for at least four years and saw three or more physicians before obtaining a correct diagnosis.
“I have seen patients who have struggled for years without a clear answer, and their bodies show the ravages of the disease,” said Sam Lim, MD, consortium chair of The Lupus Initiative and Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, Division of Rheumatology, Emory University School of Medicine. “The Lupus Initiative’s new resources will empower medical professionals across disciplines to recognize the signs and symptoms of lupus and make appropriate referrals to ensure the best outcomes for patients.”
The curriculum is designed for medical and health profession schools and universities and is available on The Lupus Initiative’s website, which includes presentation slides, interactive case studies, and a video reference library. Medical professionals can also access free continuing medical education courses and patient resources in Spanish and English. The curriculum and provider materials were developed in collaboration with a national consortium of partners including experts from a range of medical specialties and public health, as well as leaders in research, patient awareness, academia and the reduction of disparities.
“As the prototypic autoimmune disease, lupus serves as an excellent case study for education across a number of topics. The Lupus Initiative's curriculum was developed by educators for educators, so it can be seamlessly incorporated into existing courses to ensure the next generation of medical professionals understands the disease,” said Dr. Lim. “The resources will also help practicing medical professionals meet continuing medical education requirements and enhance the quality of care for their patients today.”
The Lupus Initiative's materials were also designed to educate medical professionals about the complexity of health disparities. Lupus is two to three times more common in racial and ethnic minorities, who also tend to experience more severe symptoms and poorer outcomes than Non-Hispanic Whites. While genetic factors may play a role, a growing body of evidence suggests that socioeconomic status, education, culture, access to experienced providers, insurance coverage, and implicit bias can play a role. The Lupus Initiative’s materials on culturally competent care help elaborate on the ways in which physician and patient perspectives can affect diagnosis and care and can help medical educators overcome some of these issues.
“Raising greater awareness among medical students and health care providers is critical to improving diagnosis and treatment,” said Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services. “Together, we can ensure that people living with lupus are receiving culturally and linguistically appropriate health care.”
Select schools, such as Emory University School of Medicine; Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University; and UCSF School of Medicine have already used portions of The Lupus Initiative's curriculum with students. In the coming weeks, representatives from The Lupus Initiative will be meeting with leaders at key medical schools to ensure medical educators are aware of their availability.’
About The Lupus Initiative
The Lupus Initiative is a multi-faceted education program led by the American College of Rheumatology that provides medical professionals, educators and students with easy-to-use educational resources to ensure the early and accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and management of patients with lupus, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, so that they may potentially lead healthier lives.
The Lupus Initiative is funded in part by a grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services through its Office of Minority Health; The Lupus Initiative is guided by a national consortium of experts in medicine, public health, academia, research, patient advocacy, and health disparities.
Source: American College of Rheumatology

Further Reading
Dr. Lim discusses the challenges of diagnosing and treating lupus, the tools and resources offered by the Lupus Initiative, and the impact of unconscious bias on care.
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