July 2023 President’s Report

July 30, 2023

Dear CARRA Members, Friends & Colleagues,

Bob Colbert, MD, PhD
CARRA President

It’s been over three months since we were together in New Orleans to carry on the important work that all of you do for CARRA. Thank you! I still reflect on the joy and happiness that a career in medicine has brought me, as was so eloquently articulated by CARRA Vice-President Stacy Ardoin in her keynote presentation to open the Pediatric Rheumatology Symposium. Stacy shared her personal thoughts on the joy of being a physician with a masterfully balanced academic and humanistic approach. One of the many highlights of the week.

It’s the midway point of my term as CARRA President, and a good time to reflect on where we are now, and our goals for the next year. CARRA began reorganizing in January 2022 with the move to a CEO-led organization. This initial step was swift and had a substantial impact, with day-to-day operations managed by a CEO overseeing an expert and dedicated employee staff. This allowed the Executive Committee to focus efforts on strategic planning and developing research priorities (with a lot of help from CARRA members!). What has evolved in a short time is a strong CEO-CARRA President partnership that will be a key strength for our organization as we adapt to our changing environment.

With the 2023-2025 Strategic Plan and Research Agenda now in place, we are working to establish a process to review and evaluate the plans and progress of committees and workgroups. We’ve framed a Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) charged with ensuring that the efforts of research committees are aligned with the Strategic Plan and Research Agenda. The SAC will be chaired and co-chaired by CARRA’s President and Vice-President, respectively, and populated by several CARRA committee leaders and staff. The SAC will assess committee work both prospectively and retrospectively, using a matrix that includes an evaluation of Purpose & planning, Resource utilization, Impact, Sustainability, and Mission (PRISM), with an additional eye to engagement where appropriate. The SAC will make recommendations to the CEO and Board of Directors on new and existing projects to ensure that CARRA resources are optimally used to maximize the impact of our efforts and advance CARRA’s mission.

Committee chairs and vice-chairs who had served on CARRA’s Steering Committee will be invited to join a Research and Leadership Development Forum (RLDF). This group will play an important role facilitating interactions between committees to share and promote best practices for research project development, adoption of new methodologies, awareness of government and foundation funding opportunities, and leadership development. The RLDF will be led by a small group of committee chairs and vice-chairs.

Reorganization brings Registry and Biobank research under the same umbrella as committees and workgroups, with the intent of fostering and promoting communication and cross-fertilization of ideas and projects. Additional efforts are aimed at ensuring that operations (e.g. Registry & Biobank) are run by CARRA staff, allowing CARRA investigators to focus on scientific strategies and research.

While considerable progress has been made, CARRA’s organizational structure remains ‘under construction’. Change is necessary but difficult; in the words of Canadian writer Robin Sharma, “Change is hardest at the beginning, messiest in the middle and best at the end.” Working together we can make sure this organization remains on a solid financial footing and is optimally structured to accomplish our mission. I know I can speak for the rest of the leadership team in saying we value your thoughts and ideas about how to make CARRA a better organization as we strive to be the best.

Thank you to those of you who attended CARRA’s inaugural Member Town Hall on Friday July 21st. This was the first of several town halls scheduled quarterly throughout the year to provide an opportunity for you to hear about CARRA’s research agenda and reorganization and to ask questions. Hope to ‘see’ you at the next one on October 20th!

– Bob Colbert