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One of the eight objectives set by the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR)for 2012 is to ‘bring on board high quality, young generation contributors in all EULAR activities’. This statement was the backbone for the development, in 2010, of the EMerging EUlar NETwork (EMEUNET) group, representing a Europe-wide network of young rheumatologists.1 Its key objectives include promoting and facilitating a comprehensive higher educational platform for rheumatology trainees and supporting aspiring young academics/scientists throughout Europe to maintain excellence in rheumatology research.
In order to achieve this, a first and necessary step was to obtain a better understanding of the current young professionals working in the field of rheumatology in Europe: to define the demographics of rheumatology trainees and scientists, the setting of their respective posts, their aspirations as well as awareness of EULAR's role and its activities across Europe.
A questionnaire was prepared by six young rheumatologists from five countries and sent by mail to one EMEUNET member in each country. The aim was to circulate the questionnaire to rheumatology trainees and young rheumatologists or scientists (25–35-years-old) in Europe. To maximise responses to the survey in each country, the EMEUNET representatives circulated the survey, for dissemination, to the young rheumatologist association of the national society (if it existed) or to a national young rheumatologist organisation (if it existed), on top of which they circulated it to email contacts from their country: young rheumatologists or scientists who they knew so that they would fill the questionnaire and distribute the survey among their own contacts. The survey was analysed anonymously.
In all, 243 questionnaires were collected from 19 countries (figure 1). The mean (±SD) age of respondents was 32.0±2.1 years; 68% were female subjects.
Among the respondents, 80.1% had a medical thesis/diploma, 30.7% were specialised rheumatologists, 20.8% possessed a masters degree, 26.4% were PhD students and 12.6% had already defended their PhD. Regarding future occupation, the majority planned to work in a hospital setting (full time or part time); 7.4% planned to obtain an academic/university position as a scientist, 6.5% as a rheumatologist and 25.5% as a scientist and rheumatologist (figure 2).
Almost half (42%) had international experience either in research or clinical medicine. The majority of respondents (81.4%) planned to work in the country where they were trained. A high number of respondents (67.5%) had published a scientific article in a peer-reviewed journal and many were involved in some capacity in their national organisation (58.4%).
The overwhelming majority of respondents (96%) was familiar with EULAR and had a positive opinion (visual analogue scale 0–10: mean±SD=7.75±1.27) especially regarding the EULAR congress (74.5%) and website (55.4%); 50.6% had at least once participated in the EULAR congress and 84% of respondents were familiar with the EULAR website. Although 56.7% of participants were aware of the EULAR postgraduate course only 23.4% had ever participated. Similarly, despite the fact that 55.8% were aware of EULAR Travel/Training Bursaries only 22.9% had ever applied for it.
Despite the inherent biases associated with such a survey including sufficiently widespread representation and generalisability, the survey provides some insight into the key characteristics and perspectives of rheumatology trainees. They had specific and partly unmet needs including international exchange (81.8%), more EULAR courses (77.9%) and bursaries (72.3%). The need for international exchanges was also described in another survey performed among 170 trainees and young specialists in 2008–2009.2
This survey provides a platform with which to identify areas of need; EMEUNET in particular is using it to develop initiatives and provide input into EULAR's strategy towards ensuring optimal rheumatology education and encouraging high quality research.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.