AWARD. In conjunction with the Rheumatics Days (Reumadagarna) in Gothenburg, Helena Forsblad d’Elia was awarded this year’s Nanna Svartz Scholarship, which is presented jointly by the Swedish Rheumatism Association and Pfizer, in memory of Sweden’s first female professor of medicine. She is professor of rheumatology at the University of Gothenburg and senior physician at the rheumatology clinic at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
“It’s so wonderful to receive this scholarship from our patient organization, the Swedish Rheumatism Association, in partnership with Pfizer. It is a form of recognition and helps to highlight research on axial spondyloarthritis and will be put to good use. As a resident of Gothenburg, it feels particularly good to receive the scholarship during the Rheumatics Days in Gothenburg,” Helena Forsblad d’Elia told us before the award ceremony.
“Right now, the most exciting part is our new, more sensitive method for showing skeletal changes in patients with ankylosing spondylitis, which can have major clinical significance.”
Forsblad d’Elia began including research partners to gain a better patient perspective in her studies as early as 2008. According to the award statement, she has used her patient-oriented research to make a meaningful contribution to improved quality of life for many people with rheumatic disease. She has now been awarded a scholarship of SEK 150,000 from the Swedish Rheumatism Association and Pfizer.
Forsblad d’Elia has a long research career, and since 2020, she has held a combination professorship in rheumatology at the University of Gothenburg. She became interested in clinical questions early on, particularly in the effects of rheumatic disease on the skeleton. For example, she was early to describe the connection between periarticular decreased bone density and generalized osteoporosis with rheumatoid arthritis. Thereafter, she has conducted pioneering research on axial spondyloarthritis. Forsblad d’Elia also works to implement new findings, such as through work on guidelines. She is deeply involved in supervising and teaching and is a role model for the next generation of researchers and doctors.
Professor and chief physician Helena Forsblad d’Elia has a long research career and since 2020, she has held a combination professorship in rheumatology at the University of Gothenburg. She became interested in clinical questions early on, particularly in the effects of rheumatic disease on the skeleton. Helena described the connection between periarticular decreased bone density and generalized osteoporosis with rheumatoid arthritis. She has since primarily conducted pioneering research on axial spondyloarthritis and the risk factors for disease progression, impaired quality of life, and skeletal impact. The research has been based on both well-defined cohorts of patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and on national registry studies. Her research, which has garnered international attention, has always been based on patient-oriented questions and has involved research partners since 2008. Her ongoing and planned projects will have major significance for improved quality of life for many patients with rheumatic diseases, especially those with AS diagnoses. With a national perspective for over a decade, in addition to being a leading researcher in the field, Helena has worked with the implementation of new findings through writing textbooks, as an expert in the National Board of Health and Welfare’s work with guidelines, and through her work with annual updates to the Swedish Society for Rheumatology’s treatment guidelines. Helena continues to conduct research with longitudinal follow-up of patients with axial spondyloarthritis for unique studies of how the disease interacts with natural aging. She has extensive experience with supervision and continues to be deeply involved in teaching students, younger colleagues, and doctoral students. In summary, Helena has been very meaningful for improved care of patients with axial spondyloarthritis and is a role model in conducting patient-oriented research, both through her earlier work and in her current work.
BY: THE SWEDISH RHEUMATISM ASSOCIATION & ELIN LINDSTRÖM
PHOTO: JAN TORBJÖRNSSON