Stephanie Garner, MD, MSc, FRCPC, developed an interest in vasculitis as an internal medicine resident at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, while admitting a patient to its nephrology service. The patient had pulmonary renal syndrome—respiratory failure that involves bleeding in the lungs and kidney failure—due to ANCA-associated vasculitis.
“It was a life-changing event for this previously healthy patient,” Dr. Garner explained. “And this was an area of medicine where I wanted to make a difference.” (ANCA vasculitis, or anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody vasculitis, is a group of diseases that affect the small blood vessels of the body.)
Dr. Garner is one of two physicians who received the 2020 Vasculitis Clinical Research Consortium (VCRC)-Vasculitis Foundation (VF) Fellowship Award. The VCRC-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 other fellow, Elvise Berti, MD, of University of Trento, Italy, will do his fellowship at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. He will be featured in a future issue of the VF Newsletter.)
Dr. Garner’s 2020 fellowship is taking place at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where she completed a rheumatology fellowship in December 2018, participating in cutting-edge collaborative care for patients with vasculitis. “I realized what a complex and multisystem disease vasculitis is, and that it takes a team to care for these patients. I wanted to be part of that team,” she added. Dr. Garner joined McMaster University’s Division of Rheumatology as a clinical scholar in January 2019.
“Training young physicians in clinical care and conducting research in the vasculitis field is critical for the future of our patients,” said Joyce Kullman, VF Executive Director. “The VF is committed to helping fund fellowships.”
The VF has provided over $300,000 in matching funds to support fellowships, made possible through the generosity of donors and fundraising events. “We are grateful to the Haberman Family Foundation for their generous support of Dr. Garner’s fellowship,” Kullman added.
“My primary goal of the fellowship is to gain experience and exposure to as many patients with vasculitis as I [can] so that I develop a breadth and depth of knowledge in this area,” said Dr. Garner. This includes gaining expertise in the diagnosis and management of vasculitis patients and their disease. “My second goal is to collaborate with the vasculitis community and gather the skills to be an active and productive member of this community.”
Dr. Garner’s mentor is Nader A. Khalidi, MD, FRCPC, Professor of Medicine, McMaster University, and head of service, Rheumatology, St. Joseph’s Health Care System. “Dr. Garner has already brought her skills in rheumatology to vasculitis, and clinically has made a great impact on patient care, and has facilitated careful and urgent care for those in need,” he said.
During the one-year fellowship, which officially began in July 2019, Dr. Garner has been working on two research projects. “The first is looking at using large administrative databases to develop cohorts of vasculitis patients here in Canada,” she noted.
“The second is a project describing a collaborative subspecialist clinic as a model of care for vasculitis patients.” After completing her vasculitis fellowship, Dr. Garner plans to continue through McMaster University’s clinical educator track, pursuing a career as an academic rheumatologist.
Author: Nina Silberstein
This article was originally published in the March/April 2020 VF Newsletter.