Tribute to Dr H. Ralph Schumacher as He Becomes Emeritus Editor, Journal of Clinical Rheumatology

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H. Ralph Schumacher started the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology (JCR) in 1995. At the time that he started the “purple journal,” most rheumatology journals published basic research articles. Dr Schumacher recognized the need for a journal designed primarily for clinicians. In 1995, print medical journals were the main source of information for physicians. A journal that helped expand our differential diagnosis of a complex patient, or clarified therapeutic options for the patient sitting in our office, was welcome reading indeed.
Dr Schumacher’s great scientific mind, along with a penchant for writing, made him a prolific author. A recent PubMed search yielded 695 publications! His drive was for discovery: discovery of new phenomenon or an explanation for existing ones, discovery of new investigators with novel ideas, discovery of new therapeutics or new applications of ancient ones.
Dr Schumacher had many opportunities to travel and to train international researchers in his laboratory. He embraced these opportunities, enjoyed their cultures, and welcomed their new ideas. Dr Martin Albertove shared this memory: “Dr Schumacher… was the mentor of a Venezuelan fellow and colleague from my hospital, Hernando Paul. …While in Philadelphia, Dr Paul was involved in research related to crystal-induced arthropathies. At our hospital, we were very proud of Hernando’s achievements and awed that he worked under the guidance of such a distinguished figure of American rheumatology. We are very grateful to Dr Schumacher, because, upon Hernando’s return to Venezuela he taught scores of younger rheumatologists the new concepts and techniques in crystal-induced arthritides. I could say that this is Dr Schumacher’s legacy in our country.”
It has always been Dr Schumacher’s desire to improve and promote rheumatologic care and research throughout the world. He believed that it was critical to train young international rheumatologists in his laboratory, so that they would return to their respective countries and succeed and expand rheumatology knowledge in their own countries. On founding the journal, JCR, Dr Schumacher believed he would be able to even more effectively grow rheumatology knowledge and promote international collaboration. Dr Luis Espinosa wrote, “He ran JCR with a firm hand, tough-as-nails reviewer, but honest with his appraisals. …He always tried to educate, disseminate ideas, and improve our knowledge. What really impressed me was that no matter how poorly written a paper was, if its content was rational and appropriate, he would expend a great deal of time making the needed corrections, i.e., grammar, punctuation, etc., in order to get the paper ready for publication.” Dr Chela Alarcon echoed this admiration of promoting international investigators: “He was quite supportive and encouraging, a feeling that I think many rheumatologists from Latin America can attest to. During his years as editor of JCR, not only did he encourage submissions from Latin America, he also, oftentimes, rewrote these submissions so that they could be published in an improved English version.” Dr Pineda wrote: “I remember Dr Schumacher as an impassioned and charismatic leader on clinical research, looking beneath the rheumatology surface, finding new wonders to inspire and motivate other Latin American rheumatologists to become enthusiastic clinical researchers.” Dr Wollheim wrote: “Of many fine editors, Ralph stands out in the way he urged us referees to try to focus on potential, often hidden, useful messages in papers of mixed quality.”
Dr Schumacher also mentored many junior faculty and rheumatology fellows closer to home in Philadelphia. Dr Barbara Ostrov wrote, “He set high expectations for everyone—including himself: work hard and always have intellectual curiosity. And publish! Ralph was intrigued by my cruciverbalist skills.
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