Kathleen Jo Corbin, MD, MHS, is a pediatric rheumatologist, who treats autoimmune and musculoskeletal conditions. She recognizes that children and their families often need to ease into understanding certain diagnoses.
“Sometimes, we have to start with the nuts and bolts of what the immune system is and what autoimmunity is,” explains Dr. Corbin. “Our immune system is supposed to keep us healthy and fight off infections. But in autoimmune conditions, something goes wrong and instead of helping, our immune system causes problems in our body.”
Explaining the conditions she most commonly treats—including juvenile idiopathic arthritis and lupus—is the first step. Going over treatment options is the next. “People are sometimes fearful or hesitant about medications and what it means to have a chronic disease and long-term treatments, Dr. Corbin says. “I enjoy helping kids and families understand the condition, what it means and what their limitations may or may not be. Then, we try to help them continue to have a normal childhood and family life. They can still be normal kids even if they have to take medications and see doctors.”
Treatment advancements in the field of rheumatic diseases are continuing at an exciting speed, Dr. Corbin says. “We are still learning a lot about these conditions, and increasing treatment options that are more targeted,” she says. “This is key because being able to play and move is fundamental to a kid. Being able to give that ability back to children with arthritis or issues in their joints and muscles and letting them enjoy sports, dance or whatever activity it may be is incredibly rewarding.”
Dr. Corbin is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine.