New Vasculitis Program Opens at the Medical College of Wisconsin

Until now there were no vasculitis centers in Wisconsin. Many vasculitis patients there had to travel long distances to places such as Chicago, Illinois, or to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to find a specialist with a focus on vasculitis research and clinical care in their practice. To address this need, rheumatologist Michael Putman, MD, MSCI, is creating a vasculitis program at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

In August 2020, Dr. Putman joined the college as Assistant Professor of Medicine. He has also taken on the role of Medical Director for the new vasculitis program. He is already seeing patients, will be onboarding multiple clinical trials, and continuing his translational work in giant cell arteritis (GCA).

Also called temporal arteritis, GCA typically affects the arteries in the neck and scalp, especially the temples. It can also affect the aorta and its large branches to the head, arms, and legs. GCA is the most common form of vasculitis in adults over the age of 50.

The primary goal of the vasculitis program at the Medical College of Wisconsin is to deliver excellent patient care. “We will provide care across the vasculitis spectrum,” Dr. Putman said. “I have dedicated urgent slots for GCA and have plenty of openings for all other types of vasculitis.” Patients can expect friendly staff, available appointments, and an interdisciplinary approach.

“You cannot treat vasculitis by yourself,” Dr. Putman added. He has already met with specialists across the institution. “We have phenomenal people across the board, who have an interest in vasculitis, with whom I will be collaborating.”

Dr. Putman also sees clinical trials as a means to provide more options to patients with vasculitis. “The research community in vasculitis is approachable and friendly. We have a lot of exciting things coming down the pipeline, which I hope can make a real difference in the lives of patients with vasculitis.”

As Associate Program Director of the fellowship program at the college, Dr. Putman is very active in teaching medical students, residents, and fellows. He is also coordinating a new group of younger physician-scientists to help each other with the challenges of starting out their careers in rare diseases. He finds that he and other early career physicians with an interest in vasculitis encounter many roadblocks. “Dedicated time can be hard to attain, finding mentors can be challenging, the process for becoming involved in research can be very opaque,” he said. “Overall, it can be discouraging for early stage clinicians who have an interest in vasculitis to make the leap into treating vasculitis as a career. I’m trying to make that leap myself and figured it would be easier if we shared the journey.”

Dr. Putman especially enjoys building long-term relationships with the patients themselves. “They span all demographic categories and many have overcome episodes of life-threatening disease,” Dr. Putman explained.  “Vasculitis patients continue to impress me every day.”

Patients can contact the clinic directly at 414-805-7390; referrals may be necessary, depending on insurance requirements.

Author: Nina Silberstein