Since joining NIAMS in 2021, I have been struck by how much our mission is driven by meaningful interactions with patient advocacy and other community groups interested in research related to bones, joints, muscles, and skin. This point was driven home this year with two terrific collaborative events: a multi-day meeting to gather input for the NIAMS 2025-2029 Strategic Plan and the 2023 NIAMS Coalition Outreach and Education Meeting.
Fiscal Year 2025-2029 Strategic Plan
NIAMS is currently in the process of drafting its next Strategic Plan, which will help guide the Institute’s mission from 2025-2029. Led by the Scientific Planning, Policy, and Analysis Branch (SPPAB), NIAMS hosted a three-day, virtual meeting series seeking input from community groups and other partners to help shape the Institute’s next plan. Participants included researchers, individuals from other agencies and NIH offices, and representatives from professional and voluntary organizations. During the meeting, participants and NIAMS staff engaged in small breakout groups during which more than 40 cross-cutting themes were proposed and discussed. NIAMS program directors led the sessions, while the Institute’s intramural researchers helped generate ideas and contributed to discussions. Contributors expressed interest in a variety of areas, including research leading to personalized interventions; the importance of a robust data science infrastructure; environmental influences on the development of disease; health disparities and health equity; pain; and the need for a workforce with demographics that mirror society.
I was grateful for the opportunity to listen in on and participate in a number of the breakout group conversations. I know that the thoughtful contributions during these sessions provided valuable insight into what the community finds important and will help guide us as we draft NIAMS’s next Strategic Plan. To that end, NIAMS has recently released a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit the community’s comments on the ideas discussed during this meeting. This RFI, which will be open until January 1, 2024, will give us more information to help the Institute narrow down and choose a handful of cross-cutting themes to include in the final plan. Thank you in advance for your responses!
2023 NIAMS Coalition Outreach & Education Meeting
As part of our continued emphasis on our community, NIAMS also recently hosted the ninth NIAMS Coalition Outreach and Education Meeting (O&E Meeting), which was led by the NIAMS Science Communications and Outreach Branch (SCOB). The NIAMS Coalition is a group of more than 95 organizations who serve as the voices of the patients and professionals for whom NIAMS works, and the meeting included 50-plus representatives from more than 40 Coalition organizations. Coalition group members were able to meet NIAMS staff and hear presentations from a variety of leaders, including Dr. Julie Gerberding, Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health and Dr. Renee Wegrzyn, Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). NIAMS staff and Coalition members also participated in small-group breakout sessions where they discussed topics related to health research and patient engagement.
This was the first NIAMS Coalition O&E Meeting that I was able to attend in person – and the first in-person gathering of this group since 2019. It was a pleasure to be able to highlight NIAMS accomplishments and learn from the many Coalition members who attended. These meetings are important – they ensure that we hear the voices that are vital to the NIAMS mission, and they remind us why we at NIAMS feel so passionately about what we do. You can read the executive summary of the meeting or watch the recorded portions on the NIH videocast.
We Want to Hear from You
I want to thank the NIAMS community for being so open to collaboration and community feedback. As a former member of academia, I know first-hand the difficulties that some groups face in getting their perspectives heard. As I enter my third year as NIAMS director, I know we will continue to incorporate the vitally important feedback from professionals and our patient advocacy community and ensure that their voices are acknowledged.
Lindsey A. Criswell, M.D., M.P.H., D.Sc.
Director, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases