DISTINCTION. The Department of Rheumatology and Inflammation Research at the Institute of Medicine, University of Gothenburg, has been designated as a EULAR Center of Excellence in Rheumatology 2022–2027. This is the third time the Department has received the award, held by only two universities in Sweden.
The title is awarded by the European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology, EULAR to rheumatology units that combine high-quality research with clinical work and an educational mission. Successful applicants receive the title for a five-year period.
Maria Bokarewa, Professor of Rheumatology and Chief Physician at Sahlgrenska University Hospital’s Rheumatology Clinic, wrote the application on all three occasions, the first being in 2012.
“It’s a tremendous thrill that we succeeded this time too! Compared with the previous application, the requirements have been raised and EULAR’s review has been very thorough,” she says.
Strengthened clinical research
Bokarewa’s activities have included compiling all the Department’s publications that meet certain criteria. For inclusion in the applications, articles had to be ones for which a researcher at the Department was the first or last author, and published in journals with a journal impact factor (JIP) of at least 4.
According to Bokarewa, the Department has greatly strengthened its research since the first application in 2012, and this has resulted both in more publications and in a greater number in more highly ranked journals.
“We’ve succeeded in recruiting many young researchers, both newcomers and those returning after their postdoctoral studies. We’ve invested heavily in developing our experimental research and supplementing it with epidemiological studies, patient-centered clinical research, and strategic patient cohorts as well.”
More exchange students
The Department collaborates closely with the Rheumatology Clinic and the Clinical Rheumatology Research Center at Sahlgrenska University Hospital. Today, most of the doctors have doctorates or are active in research. This is a development made possible largely through positions created by ALF (the regional agreement on cooperation in training of doctors, clinical research, and healthcare development), which gives clinically active employees the opportunity to do part-time research.
In 2023, there are some 30 EULAR Centers of Excellence in Rheumatology in Europe. In Sweden, only the University of Gothenburg (GU) and Karolinska Institute possess the title. GU’s prestigious appointment is marked with a new plaque at the entrance to Guldhedsgatan 10A.
“And we celebrated with champagne! It was a confirmation that our research meets a consistently high international standard. The award has made creating international ties easier for us. It’s also led to more young researchers and international students applying to the Department. Now we get visits from Erasmus students from all over Europe,” Bokarewa says.
Over a million Swedes affected
“Rheumatism” is a collective term for some 100 diseases, the most common of which is joint rheumatism (rheumatoid arthritis). As well as joints, these diseases often affect muscles and bones in such a way as to cause pain and difficulty in moving. Blood vessels and other vital organs can also be affected.
Over a million Swedes have some form of rheumatic disease. Development of new drugs has been highly successful over the past 20 years, but curative treatment is still lacking and not all patients get sufficient help from current therapies, so more research is needed.
TEXT AND PHOTO: KARIN ALLANDER