Gözde Kübra Yardimci, MD, began her one-year Vasculitis Clinical Research Consortium (VCRC)-Vasculitis Foundation (VF) Fellowship in July 2022 at Mount Sinai Hospital, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Her main areas of interest at present are severe ischemic events in Takayasu arteritis and Behçet’s syndrome.
Through her fellowship, Dr. Yardimci is working under the supervision of Dr. Christian Pagnoux, MD, MPH, MSc, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto, and Dr. Medha Soowamber, MD, FRCPC, rheumatologist, clinical associate at the University Health Network and Mount Sinai Hospital. “My training through the VCRC-VF fellowship has provided me with the knowledge, practical skills, expertise, and qualifications required to diagnose and manage patients with vasculitis under the guidance of Dr. Pagnoux and Dr. Soowamber, who have given me exceptional learning opportunities,” Dr. Yardimci said.
After receiving her medical degree from the Hacettepe University Faculty of Medicine in Ankara, Turkey, Dr. Yardimci completed her internal medicine residency training at Ankara University Faculty of Medicine. Following that, she finished a three-year rheumatology fellowship at Hacettepe University.
In the field of rheumatology, vasculitis is a high priority for further research. “Vasculitis is an underexposed disease due to its rarity, complexity, and the lack of awareness among physicians,” Dr. Yardimci said. “During my rheumatology fellowship at Hacettepe University, I had the opportunity to work with Prof. Dr. Ömer Karadağ and encountered many patients with vasculitis. I found vasculitis cases the most challenging and complex to treat, requiring careful management and monitoring. All these factors contributed to my fascination with vasculitis and my desire to help these patients.”
As part of Dr. Yardimci’s research, she is currently conducting a multi-center study to compare different cohorts in major ischemic events to pinpoint vascular involvement with greater precision. Her second research project during her VCRC-VF fellowship involves geographical disparity of Behçet’s syndrome. “Most cases come from countries around the Mediterranean area, the Middle East and Asia, whereas the syndrome is quite rare in North America,” she said. Her other contribution to research is to describe the main features and organ involvements of Behçet’s syndrome in Canadian patients and to investigate if the disease characteristics are different from the populations where it is seen more frequently.
“As part of my larger ambition to care for vasculitis patients, the Vasculitis Foundation Canada, Dr. Pagnoux and I conducted a patient-driven survey. In this survey, we investigated prednisone-related side effects in vasculitis as reported by patients and compared our findings to those from more conventional methods, when reported by physicians. Our work has just been published in an international peer-reviewed rheumatology journal,” Dr. Yardimci added. “That said, our work is not complete. We need to do more research to improve diagnoses, treatments, and support for patients with vasculitis. This also requires appropriate funding, obviously.”
In another area of her ongoing efforts, Dr. Yardimci is collaborating with the Vasculitis Pregnancy Registry (VPREG), which is run through the Vasculitis Patient-Powered Research Network. Through the registry, VPREG collects information that will help find answers to how vasculitis impacts reproductive health and pregnancy outcomes. “I have worked on this project to translate it into Turkish and increase awareness of this study among vasculitis patients to optimize the care for them,” she said. Dr. Yardimci hopes to do more work in this area in the future.
“I am eternally grateful to the VCRC Steering Committee for choosing me as one the VCRC-VF fellows. This fellowship has provided me with the opportunity to pursue my early career goals and passions for improving the lives of people with vasculitis,” Dr. Yardimci said. “After completing my fellowship at Mount Sinai Hospital at the end of this year, I’m planning to apply for a master’s program in epidemiology or quality improvement and patient safety.”
With the experience, knowledge and contacts she has made during her VCRC-VF fellowship, Dr. Yardimci plans to dedicate the rest of her career to vasculitis. “In the future, upon returning to Turkey, I hope to continue my work on vasculitis with high-level clinical research and launch new research initiatives,” she said. “I would also like to help develop more educational and awareness programs to bring more attention to this disease in my homeland.”
Author: Nina Silberstein