Rheumatology is a relatively young specialty with strong roots initially based in physical medicine and rehabilitation. However, with increased scientific understanding of rheumatic diseases and more effective medication options, Rheumatology evolved as a sub-specialty of General Internal Medicine. The first dedicated Consultant appointments in Scotland occurred in the 1950s and 1960s1,2,3.
As the specialty gained momentum with more consultant appointments and with the development of academic units initially in Glasgow4,5, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, so emerged the need for a regular clinical and academic meeting at which colleagues from all over Scotland could gather to exchange knowledge and ideas in an atmosphere of friendship and collaboration. This led to the formation of the Scottish Rheumatology Club (SRC). The Club was intentionally informal so there were no elected officers and there are no written records. From the outset, the aim was to improve the lives of those with rheumatic diseases.
Professor George Nuki organised and hosted the first meeting of the SRC in 1979, held in the Boardroom of the Northern General Hospital in Edinburgh, and recalls that around 40 people attended, predominately Rheumatologists, Physicians and some Orthopaedic surgeons. Thereafter, meetings were held twice yearly, alternating between teaching centres and district general hospitals. Presentations, both clinical and academic, were mainly delivered by consultants, Rheumatology trainees and medical students.
However, multi-disciplinary team working has long been firmly embedded in the practice of Rheumatology and, as the specialty has further evolved, the contribution and expertise of the Allied Health Professionals (eg. Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Pharmacists and Podiatrists) has also expanded, as has the role of the Rheumatology Clinical Nurse Specialist. These developments, combined with much improved therapeutic possibilities and increased opportunities for collaborative research and education, prompted the move to the more formal structure of the Scottish Society for Rheumatology (SSR). The Society was established in 2001 with Professor Nuki as its first President.
The first meeting of the SSR was hosted by Dr Robin Munro in November 2001 at Hamilton Park Racecourse. The keynote speaker was Professor John Forrester (Cockburn Chair of Ophthalmology, University of Aberdeen) on the topic of “Uveitis”.
There continues to be two conferences each year where rheumatologists, trainees and all members of the multi-disciplinary team come together to present their work in the form of an oral abstract or as part of the now well-established poster sessions.
Guest speakers have always been welcomed to the annual meetings and, in recognition of his tremendous contribution to Rheumatology, The Watson Buchanan Memorial Lecture was established in 2010 as a forum for clinical and academic keynote presentations.
Professor Watson Buchanan (1930 – 2006)
Professor Buchanan was a pioneer of Rheumatology in Scotland, and later in Canada. He was appointed to lead the newly established Centre for Rheumatic Diseases in Baird Street, Glasgow in 1965, moving in 1979 to McMaster University, Ontario. He was, by all accounts, an enthusiastic clinician and researcher as well as an inspiring teacher, able to transmit his own curiosity about rheumatic diseases to those he worked with. He was also something of a polymath with wider interests in Medical History, Scottish Poetry and Gaelic culture4,5,6.
The first Memorial Lecture was delivered at the Autumn 2010 meeting in Aberdeen by Professor Cyrus Cooper (Professor of Rheumatology, University of Oxford) on the topic of “Prevention of osteoporotic fractures from cradle to grave”.
Over the years, the SSR has continued to extend its reach and has increasingly provided a forum for collaborative research and audit as well as education and training.
Positive and productive links have been formed with other societies and institutions, including the British Society for Rheumatology, the Royal Colleges and Scottish Government. There is a well-established relationship with colleagues in Paediatric Rheumatology via the Scottish Paediatric and Adolescent Rheumatology Network (SPARN) to facilitate the transition from paediatric to adult rheumatology care. And, most importantly, the society has excellent links with many patient-led groups.
From small but enthusiastic beginnings over 40 years ago, the SRC/SSR has flourished. There are now 274 members and our 11th President has just taken up office.
Over this time, SSR members have seen, and contributed to, a burgeoning of the scientific understanding of rheumatic diseases which, in turn, has led to major therapeutic advances. Most importantly, members have seen so many improvements in the quality of life of those with a rheumatic disease and remain as committed as ever to ensuring that this aim continues to underpin all of the society’s activities in the years ahead – many challenges remain, so there is still much to be done.
EM February, 2021