Notable Doctors

First Pediatric Rheumatologist Awarded 2021 VCRC-VF Fellowship

Jessica Bloom, MD, MSCS, has been awarded the 2021 Vasculitis Clinical Research Consortium (VCRC)-Vasculitis Foundation (VF) Fellowship. Dr. Bloom is currently an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado- Denver, Attending Physician in Pediatric Rheumatology at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, and the first pediatric rheumatologist in the VCRC-VF Fellowship program. Her primary clinical and research interests center around anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis (AAV) in children with the goal of improving outcomes in pediatric disease. Dr. Bloom is the latest of more than 20 fellows who have been supported by the VCRC-VF Fellowship Program.

“Vasculitis is an underserved area within pediatric rheumatology, both in research and clinical expertise, despite its significant morbidity and mortality in children,” Dr. Bloom explained. “It’s well known that children have different patterns of organ involvement compared with adults and are affected during prime stages of physical and psychosocial development. However, conducting research and clinical care for rare diseases is extremely challenging in children without collaboration and adequate exposure. As such, I saw the opportunity to work with a community of investigators familiar with the methodology, data, and clinical landscape through the VCRC-VF Fellowship as invaluable for my career,” Dr. Bloom said.

“Research in childhood onset vasculitis is an area of high need,” added Robert Fuhlbrigge, MD, PhD, and Dr. Bloom’s mentor in the fellowship program. “There is very little pediatric-specific information regarding diagnosis, treatment guidelines or long-term outcomes, and very few providers with specialty training in these conditions.” Dr. Fuhlbrigge is also a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado-Denver and Section Head of Rheumatology at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Over the next two years in the fellowship, Dr. Bloom will use the VCRC to assess the associations between age at disease onset and clinical manifestations, management, and outcomes for each AAV subtype. She will analyze Vasculitis Patient-Powered Research Network (VPPRN) data in a similar manner to include patient-reported outcomes. “While few pediatric patients exist in the VCRC dataset, comparison of young and older adult populations will shed light on the impact of age at disease onset and may have implications for children as they progress into adulthood,” Dr. Bloom said. Her hope is to expand pediatric patient enrollment within the VPPRN by working with the organization to increase pediatric provider and patient engagement both nationally and internationally. “In doing so, we will work to address which patient-reported outcome measures are most relevant and appropriate for children. Expansion of the pediatric dataset within the VPPRN will allow development of more significant and relevant studies on the impact of vasculitis in children and young adults,” she said.

Dr. Bloom is excited to be the inaugural pediatric rheumatologist in the VCRC-VF Fellowship program. “Due to the limited number of pediatric rheumatologists in the United States, and specifically in the Mountain West, our patient catchment area spans seven states, providing broad exposure to children with vasculitis and other rare rheumatologic diseases,” Dr. Bloom said. “I will create my own vasculitis clinic and also work with Dr. Michael Wechsler, a recognized world expert in eosinophilic granulomatosis polyangiitis (EGPA), at National Jewish Health to evaluate patients in the VCRC EGPA Longitudinal Study.” Dr. Bloom will also work with local radiologists, adult rheumatologists, and interventional cardiologists to gain clinical expertise.

“The VCRC Steering Committee was delighted to appoint Dr. Bloom as a VCRC-VF fellow,” said Peter A. Merkel, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania and Principal Investigator of the VCRC. “She brings a much-needed renewed emphasis to clinical research on children with vasculitis within the VCRC and the VPPRN. Dr. Bloom is already busy with research within the VCRC and VPPRN and I am delighted to be collaborating with her on these projects.”

“Through this fellowship, I hope to gain the expertise necessary to decrease ambiguities in pediatric vasculitis care through clinical outcomes research,” Dr. Bloom said. “Along with Dr. Fuhlbrigge, I am very fortunate to work with such inspiring and dedicated mentors, including Dr. Merkel and Dr. Wechsler.”

“I am confident that Dr. Bloom’s activities supported by this fellowship will provide impactful data for the rheumatology community at large and help to fill the critical need for Pediatric Rheumatology investigators trained in clinical research methodologies and the treatment of vasculitis in children,” Dr. Fuhlbrigge said.

As she embarks on her academic career, Dr. Bloom would like to become a clinical expert and collaborative investigator in pediatric vasculitis. “I intend to advance the mission of the VF by increasing the presence of pediatrics within vasculitis research nationally and enhance their connections with the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance and pediatric rheumatology community,” she noted.

Author: Nina Silberstein