By The Aroostook Medical Center
AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine — Residents in the region who suffer from a rheumatic disease such as arthritis, gout, osteoporosis or hundreds of other conditions may now have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of their friends or neighbors who may suffer from similar disorders in the future.
John Assini, MD, a rheumatologist who works through TAMC’s Outpatient Specialty Clinics, is collecting data to help study people with, and treatments for, rheumatic conditions. Earlier this month, Dr. Assini began asking patients at the Rheumatology Clinic to volunteer to take part in this vital study.
“I’m inviting every patient who I see in the Rheumatology Clinic to participate,” said Dr. Assini. “You may not be helping yourself, but you may be helping your neighbor in the future.” Assini is one of two providers serving County patients through TAMC’s Rheumatology Clinic. He and Dr. Phillip Molloy treat a variety of rheumatoid conditions.
The purpose of the study is to collect data into a national databank for rheumatic diseases. The data will provide a basis for studying treatments, safety of treatments, and outcomes of treatments for patients suffering with a rheumatoid disease on a nationwide scale.
In addition to the national importance of the study, there are local implications as well, according to Dr. Assini.
“Looking at a rural, relatively isolated population, sometimes it’s good to get a better idea of what kind of patients you are seeing, what kind of treatments, what kind of outcomes, and comparing this type of population with other types of populations. Seeing if there’s any differences in what types of patients we see and what types of treatments they’re receiving and making sure these people are getting the same main stream treatment as the rest of the country,” said Dr. Assini.
“The important thing is collecting data on patients we treat, how we’re treating them, and the outcome of that treatment. The more information we gather, the more we can help people down the road.” At the end of this, hopefully we’re going to have a better picture of what this clinic is as far as the types of patients we’re seeing, how we’re doing and how they’re doing.”
In order to participate in the study, Dr. Assini sought approval from TAMC’s medical staff in the form of the Investigational Review Board/Human Rights and Research Committee. The next step is receiving consent from patients to use their data.
Patients who opt to take part must sign a consent form and complete a brief and confidential demographic survey. All patient participation is confidential and the data collected is gathered in a way that will not identify the participant. Once a patient has agreed to the study, then their visits will be followed-up by a questionnaire on how the patient is responding to treatments, what kinds of medications they are taking and how satisfied they are with their treatments.
The ongoing study will continue indefinitely for as long as it continues to generate good, useable information, according to Dr. Assini. He says that participation is key to the study’s success.
“I encourage people, wherever they are, if they are invited to participate in data studies like this to really give it good thought. There’s not a lot of effort involved in this for the patient. I would encourage anybody who has the opportunity to do this kind of thing to step up to the plate and do it,” said Dr. Assini.
Dr. Assini received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and his MD from Albany Medical Center College. After completing his Internal Medicine training at Albany Medical Center Hospital, he completed his Rheumatology Fellowship at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. He became board certified in Internal Medicine in 1976 and in Rheumatology in 1978.
Dr. Assini became a member of TAMC’s Consulting Medical Staff in December of 2012, joining the providers of TAMC’s Outpatient Specialty Clinics. He has operated his own private practice in Schenectady, New York for more than 30 years and continues to practice in New York, while providing monthly services at TAMC’s Rheumatology clinic.