Sebastian Sattui, MD
It was during a medical clerkship that Sebastian Sattui, MD, first recognized the complexity of vasculitis, and the profound impact the disease has on patients’ lives.
He had encountered a patient with EGPA (eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis) for the first time. “I will always remember the patient’s long list of symptoms, the medical mystery he had represented so far, and the certainty with which the attending rheumatologist made the diagnosis, just after listening to the patient and checking his chart,” recalled Dr. Sattui, a rheumatology fellow at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
That and other early experiences sparked an interest in vasculitis that has fueled Dr. Sattui’s medical career and the research he will conduct as the recipient of the 2019 VCRC-VF Fellowship Award.
The Vasculitis Clinical Research Consortium (VCRC)-Vasculitis Foundation (VF) Fellowship is a mentored training program of up to two years for physician-investigators who have a strong interest in vasculitis and wish to pursue specialized training in patient-oriented clinical investigation.
The VF contributes $50,000 in matching funds to the fellowship, made possible through donors and proceeds from the annual Chicagoland Vasculitis Golf Tournament. Organized by now-retired VF board member Jeffrey Fishbein, PsyD, and his extended family, the event has raised more than $500,000 since 2014, with proceeds going to the VCRC-VF Fellowship Program (and to the opening of the Vasculitis Clinical Research Program at Northwestern University, Illinois, three years ago).
“The VCRC-VF is an important fellowship program that has enabled young and talented physicians to train in the area of vasculitis,” said Dr. Fishbein. “The tournament has been a proud supporter of this program since we began this event five years ago.”
During the two-year fellowship, which begins in July 2019, Dr. Sattui will continue work on two research projects. The first project is analyzing the prevalence and impact of frailty in patients with polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) and giant cell arteritis (GCA), which often strike people over the age of 50.
“Frailty is a process that can affect our ability to bounce back after an illness or other stressful events, such as a fall or an infection, as well as our ability to live independently,” said Dr. Sattui. “I think frailty is an unexplored outcome that needs to be further studied in PMR and GCA patients, since it can impact both quality of life and clinical outcomes.”
Dr. Sattui’s second project involves assessing a new biomarker, mitochondrial DNA, as a measure of disease activity in patients with ANCA vasculitis. (Mitochondrial DNA is a genetic material that when detected in the blood, can be used as a marker of inflammation.)
“We already have a small pilot study where we have shown some differences in the levels of this biomarker in patients with active disease and remission.” During the fellowship, Dr. Sattui will explore the potential clinical use of this biomarker, with the goal of potentially identifying changes in disease activity prior to symptoms and allowing prompt treatment.
Dr. Sattui expressed gratitude for the Fellowship, to his mentor Robert Spiera, MD, his sponsoring institution—the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS)—and the HSS Vasculitis, Scleroderma and Myositis Center, where the fellowship will take place.
“The Vasculitis Foundation is a unique and exemplary organization that not only empowers patients, but also gives them the opportunity to influence and change the landscape of medical care,” said Dr. Sattui. “The VCRC-VF fellowship is a great example of that, where the foundation is supporting a physician who shares the objectives of the VF.”
Dr. Spiera is excited about the prospect of Dr. Sattui focusing on vasculitis over the next two years as a VCRC-VF fellow. “In addition to further developing clinical expertise in the care of these disorders, he has already initiated a number of studies hoping to better define frailty in patients with vasculitis and polymyalgia rheumatica,” said Dr. Spiera. “Frailty is an area that is increasingly recognized as important to patients’ well-being, but to date, not adequately studied in these diseases.”
—By Sharon DeBusk
Sebastian E . Sattui, MD
- Rheumatology fellow, Hospital for Special Surgery, Weill-Cornell Medicine, NY, New York
- Medical degree: Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, Peru (2012)
- Internship/residency: University of Alabama at Birmingham (2014-2017)
- Board-certified rheumatologist: Eligible (Taking boards in 2020)
- Current status: In post-graduate year 5 (PGY-5); currently completing two years of ACGME-accredited rheumatology fellowship; VCRC-VF fellowship starting in July 2019 (PGY years 6 and 7)