29 March 2019

HK society celebrates 30 years of growth

APLAR

The Hong Kong Society of Rheumatology (HKSR) has just celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Founded in 1988, it began as a small group of five rheumatologists, and has grown into a society with more than 250 members. In the early 1980s, rheumatology was a young and small subspecialty with little recognition in Hong Kong. Most patients with arthritis or rheumatic ailments were receiving substandard treatment. 

Since the formation of the Hong Kong College of Physicians and Hong Kong Academy of Medicine in 1993, rheumatology has become a recognised subspecialty with formal training. Now, there are now more than 90 fully trained rheumatologists working in Hong Kong. 

Apart from rheumatologists, we have also successfully stimulated the interests of doctors from different specialties, nurses, allied health care professionals and research scientists in joining our society. 

Throughout the years, the society has contributed much to the development of the rheumatology specialty in Hong Kong. Sponsorships are granted to members to attend major international rheumatology meetings. Different special interest groups have been set up to enhance rheumatology skills and to develop recommendations for management. 

Our society’s official journal, the Hong Kong Bulletin on Rheumatic Diseases, first published in 2001, has become an important platform for knowledge and information for regional rheumatologists. This biannual publication started publishing online in 2016, and now includes original articles, review papers, case reports, local consensus guidelines and a regular report on the biologics registry in Hong Kong.

The HKSR also hosts various international and local scientific meetings and symposia. We have our regular monthly interhospital meeting for both trainees and fellows and many scientific symposia for our society members. 

The HKSR annual scientific meeting has was established in 1995. In 2016, we had our first annual International Conference of Chinese Rheumatologists (ICCR) which is a unique event for the exchange of scientific and clinical knowledge between rheumatologists in Hong Kong, China and worldwide. The ICCR of 2018 has attracted more than 250 local and international distinguished speakers and rheumatologists to participate. 

Apart from ICCR, Hong Kong has held three EULAR-endorsed musculoskeletal ultrasound courses, two basic level and one intermediate level, since 2015. These courses are popular and well attended by rheumatologists within the region. 

The HKSR is a strong advocate for academic research. A project fund was set up in 2013 to support local research projects.  

Throughout the years, our members have contributed much to academic pursuits in systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, spondyloarthritis, and myositis. 

Current areas of research include lupus low disease activity state, atherosclerosis in rheumatic diseases, applications of high resolution peripheral quantitative CT scan in rheumatic diseases, biomarkers and MRI for diagnosis and monitoring in spondyloarthritis, and myositis associated auto-antibodies in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is blessed with its unique geographical location and well-established medical standing.  

We have good partnerships with many professional and academic societies. The HKSR joined the South East Asian League Against Rheumatism (SEAPAL) – the former name of the Asian Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology (APLAR) – in 1998, the same year of its premiere scientific meeting, the Pre-SEAPAL scientific meeting.

Since 1989, the society has attached great importance to collaborations with rheumatology associations in China, and has hosted various exchange meetings. In 1997, a close relationship with the Guangdong Rheumatology Association lead to the regular Huaxia Congress on the Diagnosis and Management of Rheumatic Disease in 1999 for rheumatologists in the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Since 2018, we have joined the Greater Bay Area alliance and began regular exchanges with rheumatologists in the area.  

In 2006, we organised the Asia Autoimmunity Forum. In 2010, we hosted the 14th APLAR Congress, and we have just successfully won the bid to host the APLAR for our second time in 2021. 

Apart from medical professions, the HKSR also supports rheumatology patients by organising seminars, promoting charity fundraising events, and producing educational materials. 

The society networks closely with the Hong Kong Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation, the Hong Kong Community Rehabilitation Network, and rheumatology patient self-help groups.

Looking towards the future, the HKSR will continue to assume the responsibility of a leading organisation in rheumatology education and development, not only in Hong Kong but also in the Asia-Pacific region.

Dr Ronald ML Yip is President, The Hong Kong Society of Rheumatology, Clinical Services Director, IDMC, Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, Hon Consultant, Department of Medicine (Rheumatology Division) , Kwong Wah Hospital, Hong Kong