The local chapter of the Arthritis Foundation recently honored Ankur Kamdar, M.D., McGovern Medical School pediatric rheumatologist affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, for raising awareness about a silent disease and working to bolster interest in an underrepresented specialty.

 Dr. Kamdar was named the foundation’s 2016 Medical Honoree at the 10th Annual Joints in Action Golf Tournament on March 24, a fundraising event that celebrates patients with arthritis who continue to enjoy active lives after joint replacement.  The foundation also honored his patient, 12-year-old Allie Guerino, who was named the 2016 Youth Honoree. Proceeds from the event help support the foundation’s mission to conquer arthritis through information and resources, access to health care, advancements in science and community connections.

“People have the misperception that arthritis is an old person’s disease, but it can affect all age ranges,” Dr. Kamdar said. “Many people have never even heard of juvenile arthritis, but the young people who suffer from it are forced to deal with a lot at an early age. While most kids are able to live a fulfilling life, and even continue to play competitive sports, in some cases, they have to take infusions and shots and medications every day, just to be able to move.”

 Allie was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at 9 years old after suffering with extreme swelling in her joints. Her family was told that, because of the shortage of pediatric rheumatologists, it could take up to three months to get an appointment. But Allie’s father sent an email to the colleagues at his law firm, and one recommended Dr. Kamdar, who was able to see Allie within a week, helping ease her parents’ anxiety about the diagnosis.

 “Dr. Kamdar cares so much about each and every patient,” Allie’s mother, Sallie Guerino said. “He gives so much time and attention to them and he has this huge heart. It’s obvious that he loves this line of work. He gives it his all.”

 Thanks to a specialized treatment regimen prescribed by Dr. Kamdar, Allie, now in sixth grade, continues to lead an active lifestyle. She’s a key contributor on her basketball team and loves playing field hockey and softball at St. Francis Episcopal Day School.

 “I hope to raise awareness that kids get arthritis and it makes a big impact on their lives,” she said.

 Dr. Kamdar, who has been actively involved in the foundation since 2007, has been a leader in trying to encourage more aspiring doctors to consider a career in pediatric rheumatology. Dr. Kamdar first recognized the shortage during his pediatric training, noting that there were not enough doctors to see the number of children diagnosed each year with juvenile arthritis. Dr. Kamdar is now the associate program director of the general pediatrics residency program at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, and has worked diligently to educate future doctors and health professionals in all levels of training so that they are better equipped to care for patients of all ages suffering with rheumatic disease.

 Arthritis, the leading cause of disability in the United States, afflicts one in every five adults and one in every 250 children, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Children with arthritis can struggle with eye inflammation and growth problems. The chronic disease can also cause their bones and joints to grow unevenly.  The disease can be diagnosed in infants as young as 1-year-old, requiring lifelong medical treatment, but the risks increase with age, with nearly half of adults over the age of 65 suffering from arthritis.