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Virginia Physician Receives Honorable Mention in the Vasculitis Foundation’s 2021 V-RED Award Program

(May 2021) Alison Whitman, MD, has received an honorable mention in the Vasculitis Foundation’s (VFs) 2021 Recognizing Excellence in Diagnostics (V-RED) award program. Now in its eighth year, V-RED has grown into a powerful awareness campaign that recognizes medical providers worldwide for making a critical, early diagnosis of vasculitis.

Pam Breeding’s husband, Tom, had a sinus infection that treatment did not improve—even after he sought care from an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Tom’s primary care provider, Dr. Whitman, had a growing suspicion that GPA could be the reason for his lingering symptoms. GPA is a form of vasculitis—a family of rare disorders characterized by inflammation of the blood vessels, which can restrict blood flow and damage vital organs and tissues. Formerly called Wegener’s granulomatosis, GPA typically affects the sinuses, lungs, and kidneys but can also involve other tissues and organs. GPA can worsen rapidly, so early diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent organ damage or failure.

From mid-June through July 2020, Dr. Whitman ordered tests, made referrals, and continued to voice her unconfirmed, yet ultimately correct diagnosis of GPA. “She was familiar with this rare disease as she already had more than one patient in her practice with it,” Pam explained. “She knew what was needed to receive the definitive diagnosis—a biopsy and anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody testing.”

Pam and Tom, who live in Cleveland, Virginia, thank Dr. Whitman for her knowledge, sensitivity, investigative skills, and persistence, and Dr. Whitman continues to be involved with Tom’s treatment. “Our locality is rural, so travel is necessary for care with specialists and treatments, but Dr. Whitman and the rheumatologist work well together to give Tom excellent care.”

Dr. Whitman is a family medicine specialist at Holston Medical Group in Abingdon. She earned her medical degree from East Tennessee State University JH Quillen College of Medicine in Johnson City and specializes in caring for people of all ages, at all stages of life. Dr. Whitman is affiliated with Bristol Regional Medical Center and Johnston Memorial Hospital.

Karen Hirsch, past-president of the VF Board of Directors, is particularly encouraged by the V-RED award program’s success. After her son, Michael, received an early diagnosis of vasculitis, Hirsch created the award to bring special recognition to medical professionals in a broad range of clinical specialties. She believes the award increases awareness among medical peers. The program calls on patients worldwide to nominate a medical professional they want to recognize for making a critical, early diagnosis of vasculitis, thus enabling timely treatment, and potentially sparing permanent and ongoing health complications.

Building upon the collective strength of the vasculitis community, the Vasculitis Foundation supports, inspires and empowers individuals with vasculitis and their families through a wide range of education, research, clinical, and awareness initiatives.