Arthritis Foundation, UAB and Children’s of Alabama Celebrate 5th Anniversary of Pediatric Rheumatology Program

Contact: Kathy Bowers 205/638-9002 (

BIRMINGHAM – The anniversary of a specialty program at Children’s of Alabama that has changed the lives of thousands of children is coming up Sept. 20.  A reception will take place on Thursday, Sept. 20, at Children’s to celebrate the anniversary of the clinic and its successes so far.  Leaders from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Children’s, families and partners in the fundraising efforts will be on hand.

If 7-year-old Natalie Fox had lived in Alabama and been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis six years ago, her story may have taken a different path.  But thanks to a partnership between UAB, Children’s and the Arthritis Foundation that came to fruition five years ago this month, she is an active second grader.

Natalie was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis during 2007 when she two years old.  When her symptoms started, she became completely unable to move one of her legs.  Two months later after visits to the pediatrician, an orthopedist, and surgery to try and find out the cause of her pain, Natalie was diagnosed.  Her mother considers it a blessing that at just about the same time her daughter was diagnosed, a new doctor had come to town.  Dr. Randy Cron holds the Arthritis Foundation Endowed Chair in Pediatric Rheumatology.  He came to Birmingham during August of 2007 as the first director of the UAB Division of Pediatric Rheumatology at Children’s.  Natalie Fox was one of his first patients. 

“I don’t want to think about where Natalie would be without the care she has gotten from this program,” says Rachel Fox, Natalie’s mother.  “Without this level of care, she could be in a wheelchair.  We’re blessed to have these doctors and nurse practitioners so that my daughter and so many others can live a somewhat normal life.”

The pediatric rheumatology program at Children’s came to fruition when a small group of volunteers led by the Arthritis Foundation, UAB and Children’s joined forces to raise money for better care for children with arthritis.  “We knew too many parents that were having to travel hundreds of miles for care, or that were going without the best care simply because of a lack of services in our state,” says Sandi Falkenhagen, Arthritis Foundation volunteer and a part of the group that raised funds for the endowment.  “We knew things had to change for kids with arthritis in our state, and that we needed to be the ones to step forward.”

Five years later, the clinic has had more than 8,000 outpatient visits.  It is an ACGME certified training program in pediatric rheumatology, and is one of the largest programs in the country. The program now has five board certified pediatric rheumatologists.  Patients now come to Birmingham from across the state, the Southeast, and even from as far as Greece.  The research findings stemming from the program include the first American College of Rheumatology (ACR) standards for care in juvenile idiopathic arthritis, published during 2011 by Dr. Tim Beukelman, Dr. Randy Cron and colleagues.

About the Arthritis Foundation

The Arthritis Foundation is committed to raising awareness and reducing the unacceptable impact of arthritis.  Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States, impacting 50 million adults and nearly 300,000 children.  The Arthritis Foundation is the world’s largest private nonprofit funder of arthritis research, investing more than $450 million in strategic initiatives resulting in treatments that have given mobility back to countless patients.  In addition to research funding the Arthritis Foundation fights for health care policies that improve the lives of the millions who live with arthritis, and partners with individuals and families locally to provide empowering programs and information.  In Alabama alone, more than 1.2 million adults and nearly 5,000 children are impacted by this disease.

About Children’s of Alabama

Children’s of Alabama has provided specialized medical care for ill and injured children since 1911, offering inpatient and outpatient services throughout central and north Alabama. Last year, families made more than 634,000 outpatient and nearly 14,000 inpatient visits to Children’s from every county in Alabama and from 47 other states. With more than 2 million square feet, Children’s is the third largest pediatric medical facility in the U.S. and has been ranked among the top children’s hospital programs in the country for the past three years by US News & world Report. More information is available at

About UAB

Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is the state of Alabama’s largest employer and an internationally renowned research university and academic health center; its professional schools and specialty patient-care programs are consistently ranked among the nation’s top 50. Find more information and


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