V-RED Awards Honor 3 Physicians for Early Vasculitis Diagnoses

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by Mary Chapman |

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V-RED Awards, early diagnosis

The Vasculitis Foundation‘s Excellence in Diagnostics (V-RED) award program — which has grown into an awareness campaign — is this year honoring an endocrinologist, a primary care physician, and a critical care doctor.

Launched in 2014, the V-RED awards seek to recognize medical providers globally who made critical early diagnoses of vasculitis, a group of diseases characterized by inflammation and damage to small blood vessels.

Every year, healthcare professionals in a broad range of clinical specialties are nominated by patients for the awards. In addition to honoring these professionals, the award program is designed to increase awareness of vasculitis among the winners’ medical peers, the foundation said in a press release.

This year, the first place awardee is Adam Maass, MD, an endocrinologist in Cave Springs, Arkansas. Maass had been providing care to type 1 diabetes patient Hunter Keen since Keen was 12. One day in 2017, then 17-year-old Keen began coughing up blood. Because this occurred during the holidays, his primary care physician was unavailable.

Three days later, the cough became more intense, and dark bright blood appeared in the sputum.

Seeking help, Keen’s mother called Maass, who recommended lab tests and a lungs x-ray. After Keen was misdiagnosed with pneumonia and bronchitis — ultimately spending five days in the hospital — Maass insisted on additional testing, including for a form of vasculitis called granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA).

“We will be forever grateful for Dr. Maass’ close scrutiny and concern for our son’s health,” said Sherri Keen, who is Hunter Keen’s mother.

An honorable mention V-RED award went to Alison Whitman, MD, a primary care physician in Abingdon, Virginia. Her patient, Tom Breeding, had a persistent sinus infection that did not get better. Whitman had a lingering suspicion that GPA, which typically affects the sinuses, lungs, and kidneys, could be behind Breeding’s symptoms.

For about six weeks last year, Whitman ordered tests, made referrals, and continued to press her suspicions, which ultimately proved correct.

“She was familiar with this rare disease as she already had more than one patient in her practice with it,” said Tom Breeding’s wife, Pam. “She knew what was needed to receive the definitive diagnosis: a biopsy and anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody testing.”

Scott Beegle, a pulmonary/critical care physician in Albany, New York, received the second honorable mention V-RED award. In 2009, his patient, Mary Meliski, was hospitalized with severe jaw, ear, neck, and back pain, in addition to wheezing and shortness of breath. After a month without a diagnosis and a suggestion that symptoms were “all in her head,” Beegle’s team did a lung biopsy and ultimately learned that Meliski had eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis, one of the rarest forms of vasculitis. Such patients typically have a history of asthma.

“Since the beginning, Dr. Beegle has been dedicated to my care and has a bedside manner unmatched by other providers,” Meliski said. “His knowledge and understanding assure me that my care is in the right hands.”