Mara Becker, MD, MSCE
Children's Mercy Hospital
Thank you so much for the nomination to run for CARRA JIA Chair. As I have reflected on this opportunity, I realized how much talent we have in this organization and thus am honored to be considered as a possible contender for this position.
My background is as a dually trained Pediatric Rheumatologist and Clinical Pharmacologist. This additional fellowship training has been instrumental in helping to form the foundation for my translational research interests in the variability in drug response, mainly involving methotrexate and the impact on folate homeostasis in our JIA patients. This area of work has been a large part of my research career and now, in part, forms a component of PROMOTE, an NICHD-funded R01 study that aims to predict response to methotrexate utilizing genomic and metabolic profiles. I also have a strong interest in using cellular folate to guide appropriate MTX dosing in patients with Down syndrome, as well as investigating therapeutic drug monitoring of biologic therapies and novel biomarkers of drug response in JIA. However, as important as the science and discovery is with these research interests, it is the team of investigators and collaborators that contribute to this work that make it quite meaningful to me. I have had the privilege of working closely with clinicians, analytical chemists, molecular geneticists, PharmD/PhDs, and cell biologists. In fact, it is the building of diverse teams of collaborators that I enjoy most in this work, and as a result, I know the work product benefits from a team approach. I believe the strong partnership and collaboration with my Co-PI Sue Thompson, PhD resulted in a better scientific question and successful NIH funding. I see this as a real strength in CARRA and I’d like to bring my enthusiasm for team building to the JIA committee. With several successful workgroups already well established, I’d like to highlight the outstanding work that is being done, synergize work that can be complemented between workgroups, strengthen the sense of purpose for work related to JIA, and encourage novel approaches and ideas to advance our work in this area. In addition, as CARRA has grown to involve a variety of partners such as the Arthritis Foundation, PARTNERS, and industry, we are poised to explore using the CARRA network and the Registry as a platform to perform large scale innovative clinical trials.
Another large component of my career that can serve me well in this role is the administrative experience I have gained in the last several years. I served as the Division Director of Rheumatology and grew our group to nine outstanding faculty. I have also served as an Associate Chair for the Department of Pediatrics working specifically with Neurology, Developmental Pediatrics, Genetics, and Rehabilitation in addition to Rheumatology. Currently I am the Senior Medical Director for ambulatory services. These experiences have helped me develop not only a deeper appreciation for my colleagues in Rheumatology, but also an ability to work with and lead a very large group of diverse physicians from various backgrounds and with various goals and priorities. These experiences have helped me to keep a healthy perspective of what is important, and appreciate the significance of knowing how our individual efforts align and contribute to the bigger picture. CARRA has been an organization that has grown rapidly over the last 15 years. In the daily grind, it is easy to lose sight of the great strides that we have made, and even lose perspective of how our work through CARRA contributes to the advancement of our field and ultimately better care for our patients. I’d like to use this leadership opportunity to celebrate and put in clear perspective how far we have come, and how important each individual is to the success of the whole, but also to ignite and cultivate the urgency and perseverance to keep working and questioning and searching for answers to the many questions that remain in JIA. We have much farther to go, but I sincerely believe we have the foundation to support real strides to move our field forward, together.
I’ve really enjoyed being a part of CARRA throughout the years, thank you for considering my nomination, and I would be honored to serve as JIA Chair if elected by the membership.
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