New Chief Named for UCSF Rheumatology Clinic

A conversation with Dr. Andrew Gross

Andrew Gross

On July 1, 2008, Dr. Andrew Gross took the reins as Director of the UCSF Rheumatology Clinic on the Paranssus Campus. In this position, he supervises 17 UCSF physicians, 6 UCSF rheumatology fellows and 9 volunteer physicians who, with him, care for patients who make approximately 6,000 visits annually. In addition, he oversees teaching rheumatology to UCSF medical students and residents.

Dr. Gross received his M.D. degree from Tufts University and completed his rheumatology fellowship at New England Medical Center. He came to UCSF in 2003 for a postdoctoral fellowship in microbiology and immunology, and joined the faculty of the Division of Rheumatology.

Q: How have the treatment of arthritis and rheumatological conditions changed in the past decade or so, and why?
Dr. Gross: "They have changed a great deal and it's from the explosion in research on the immune system dating back the last 20 years that has allowed us to have a much better understanding of how the immune system works, and what goes wrong in patients with arthritis and related autoimmune diseases.
"From that, we have a much, much better understanding of some of the key proteins and molecules involved in driving inflammation in the joints. And we're much better able to now target those proteins and molecules related to disease by developing effective treatments. This is particularly true in rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis."

Q: Looking forward, do you expect this trend in improved treatments to continue?
Dr. Gross: "There seem to be at least a couple of new medications becoming available each year, so that's very exciting. In addition, through genetics research, we're gaining new insight into genes involved in arthritis. That hopefully will lead to the development of other new medications. So, over the next 10 years I see us becoming more and more effective at treating all forms of arthritis and autoimmune diseases."

Q. What's your goal in terms of patient care at the UCSF Rheumatology Clinic?
Dr. Gross: "There are two aspects to that. One part of it is treating the disease using the full arsenal of medication to reduce inflammation and control symptoms. The second is to make a difference in people's lives by helping them to do what they want to do, whether it's to go hiking or to go back to work full time. An important part of that is working with people to create a treatment plan to address the residual impact of the disease. Often, it's not medications that result in people feeling better, but rather working with physical therapists, working with personal trainers, and re-engaging in physical activity."

Q: What changes, if any, do you want to bring about at the Rheumatology Clinic?
Dr. Gross: "Let me start with what I don't want to change. I'm committed to sustaining the quality of care at UCSF Rheumatology at the outstanding level it has been for decades.
"In terms of new directions, I'd like to create collaborations with physicians in the Departments of Orthopedics and Dermatology, with whom we share so many patients. I'm also excited about developing a deeper relationship with the Division of Pulmonary Medicine because many patients with autoimmune conditions develop interstitial lung disease."

Q. What do you find most satisfying about your job?
Dr. Gross: "Two things. One is bringing clinicians and researchers together into collaborative efforts. People at UCSF are brilliantly smart, remarkably enthusiastic and energetic. I also, of course, find it very satisfying to make a difference for my patients in their lives."

"There seem to be at least a couple of new medications becoming available each year, so that's very exciting."
--- Dr. Andrew Gross

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