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In 2009, EULAR pioneered an initiative to support the creation of a European network of young rheumatologists and researchers in rheumatology with the aim to widen collaborations, promote education and eventually integrate them into EULAR activities. This was the dawn of the EMerging Eular NETwork (EMEUNET). A mapping of priorities, unmet needs and educational preferences of European young rheumatologists, led to the establishment of the first framework of activities by Daniel Aletaha, Laure Gossec and Maya Buch.1 2 Over the subsequent 10 years, the development and success of the project surpassed even the most optimistic views. When interviewed for the EMEUNET 10th Anniversary Newsletter issue, Professors Paul Emery, Josef Smolen and Maxime Dougados, the EULAR leaders who supported the birth of EMEUNET, shared that it has indeed exceeded their expectations.3 EMEUNET has remarkably and steadily grown to become the largest network of young rheumatologists and researchers in rheumatology in the world with more than 2500 members to date (table 1).
As past and current leaders of EMEUNET, our overarching objectives have remained education, mentoring and integration within EULAR. The achievement of these goals has been pursued with a multifaceted range of activities carried on by the enthusiastic people who joined the working group over time. Over 160 young rheumatologists from 29 EULAR countries volunteered to invest their time, efforts and commitment contributing to the growth and development of EMEUNET. In parallel, we established a network of passionate Country Liaisons in each of the 46 EULAR Countries to engage as many young rheumatologists as possible across Europe in EMEUNET and its activities.
A milestone in our history was the vision to have social media presence which would break down geographical barriers and allow EMEUNET to dramatically broaden its reach.4 This endeavour also paved the way to longstanding collaborations with the EULAR journals since EMEUNET members have become the spokespersons of Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases and RMD Open on Twitter and Facebook and, more recently, have increasingly engaged in podcasts and webinars.5 Such partnership was further strengthened by the establishment of a mentoring programme for peer-reviewing skills that over 5 editions allowed 111 mentees from 26 European countries to graduate as independent reviewers.6 Following a survey distributed in our community, we realised that postdoctoral mentoring was yet another field where EMEUNET could intervene and help close the gap. Thanks to the commitment of outstanding mentors across Europe, we have established this new successful programme and its third edition is currently running.7
The identification of the educational needs of young rheumatologists along with the valuable input of several working group members fostered the stemming of other projects, which are now fully established in the EULAR educational portfolio, such as the EULAR Epidemiology and Immunology Courses and the EULAR-EMEUNET Twitter journal club. Such proactivity of talented colleagues gave rise to other joint initiatives with EULAR in the field of postgraduate education, including analysis of core competences8 and assessment of competences in rheumatology training,9 10 as well as the development of a European portfolio for rheumatology trainees11 under the auspices of the EULAR School of Rheumatology.
While growing as a community, we realised that our membership included about 10% of young rheumatologists from outside Europe (table 1 and figure 1). Thus, we felt the need to broaden our perspectives by establishing collaborations with the American College of Rheumatology Young Investigators12 and with the recently established Pan American League Against Rheumatism ‘Joven’13 and the Asia & Pacific League Against Rheumatism Young Rheumatologists Group (AYR).14
Furthermore, we acknowledged the importance of building bridges with paediatric rheumatologists and with associations of young colleagues of other specialities involved in the care of people with RMDs to develop joint projects aimed at pursuing a holistic approach for our patients throughout their life.15 This is exemplified among others by our partnership with the EMErging RheumatoloGists and rEsearchers group within the Paediatric Rheumatology European Society (PReS),16 which flourished at the 2019 EULAR-PReS Congress with a joint session on the management of neuropsychiatric systemic lupus erythematosus across the lifespan and the allocation of a EULAR-PReS research grant to a joint project.
EULAR has fully embraced the active engagement of patients as well as their education and empowerment with the European organisation of People with Arthritis/Rheumatism (PARE) being one of its core components. In recent years, the Young PARE subgroup was established to address the unmet needs of young patients with RMD. EMEUNET has had a longstanding collaboration with Young PARE,17 from the participation in their first meeting in 2016 to the development of joint projects, some of which have been already resulted in the development of EULAR recommendations.18–20
In addition to these EMEUNET initiated task forces, the involvement of EMEUNET members in every task force for EULAR recommendations is now well established, having been incorporated in the 2014 EULAR standard operating procedures.21
While blowing out our first 10 birthday candles,22 we kept strengthening the bond with EULAR, which lead to the recognition of EMEUNET as an essential constituent of EULAR by granting it status as an independent committee in June 2019. As of 11 January 2021, EULAR has endorsed the first-ever bylaws of the newly established EMEUNET committee, together with the other representation committees.23 We take this opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude to the EULAR leadership that throughout the years has always supported and guided our group up to this most recent achievement.
Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented challenge to the scientific community worldwide and restricted interaction among colleagues primarily to the virtual realm. Building on our established experience on social media and on-line based activities, we strive to support EULAR in adapting the educational and networking offer to a virtual/hybrid setting and support our members in these difficult times.
Looking ahead, as we recognise that our success is only possible thanks to the participation of our members, we asked for their feedback via survey. This assessment, presented at the 2021 EULAR virtual Congress,24 confirmed our members’ perception of our mission as set out in our mission statement. Furthermore, it highlighted areas for improvement, such as raising awareness on the possibility to submit new ideas/projects and the opportunity to further focus on fostering research collaboration. The latter has always been one of our priorities and is an area we are expanding also thanks to the involvement of EMEUNET in the newly launched EULAR Virtual Research Centre.25 In addition, the possibility to have EMEUNET representatives in each of the EULAR content committees, that is, Advocacy, Congress, Education, Quality of Care and Research), as set out in the new EULAR bylaws, will be an incredible opportunity for EMEUNET to help shape the future of the EULAR family.
In conclusion, we recently achieved a milestone in the history of EMEUNET, being recognised as a EULAR Committee(Box 1). Although a lot has been developed and accomplished in the last 10 years (figures 2 and 3), we wish EMEUNET to achieve even more in the future.
EMerging Eular NETwork (EMEUNET) was founded, by Daniel Aletaha, Laure Gossec and Maya Buch, in 2009 and has steadily grown ever since currently representing the largest network of young rheumatologists and researchers in rheumatology worldwide.
EMEUNET offers a variety of educational. mentoring and networking programmes in close collaboration with EULAR over more than 10 years.
In June 2019, EMEUNET was recognised as an independent EULAR Committee and included as such in the first-ever EULAR bylaws in January 2021.
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This study does not involve human participants.
We are grateful to all Working Group Members and Country Liaisons who over the last 10 years invested time and energy on a voluntary basis contributing to the spread of EMEUNET across Europe and to the completion of all the successful projects. We are particularly grateful to all Subgroup Leaders (in alphabetical order): Christian Ammitzbøll, Xenofon Baraliakos, Christian Beyer, Mary Canavan, Isabel Castrejon, Mary Connolly, Richard Conway, Diederik De Cock, Manouk de Hooge, Rucsandra Dobrota, Antonis Fanouriakis, Ida Haugen, Meghna Jani, Lianne Kearsley-Fleet, Marie Kostine, Tue Kragstrup, Estibaliz Loza, Aurelie Najm, Victoria Navarro Compán, Francesca Ometto, Simone Parisi, Silvia Piantoni, Mikhail Protopopov, Helga Radner, Christophe Richez, Javier Rodriguez-Carrio, Sebastián C Rodriguez-García, Santiago Rodrigues Manica, Vasco Romão, Julia Spierings, Paul Studenic, Marloes van Onna, Suzanne Verstappen, Casper Webers.
Twitter @pedrommcmachado, @CarolineOspelt, @ElenaNikiUK
Contributors All authors contributed and finally approved the current manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
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Competing interests AA, DA, MHB, PMM, CO, SR and EN are members of RMD Open Editorial Board.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.