The Verna Wright Prize
The Verna Wright Prize was created by Raffaele Scarpa in 2008, to celebrate the famous English rheumatologist who first developed at University of Leeds an interest in spondarthritis field and particularly in psoriatic arthritis. The first edition of the Verna Wright Prize was held in Procida, a little island of the gulf of Naples, in 2008.
VERNA WRIGHT, MD, FRCP
Verna Wright was born in 1928. Although Devonian by birth, he was reared and schooled in Bedford, and, as a state scholar, qualified in medicine at Liverpool University in 1953, after changing course from veterinary medicine. He first developed an interest in psoriatic arthritis at Stoke Mandeville Hospital under Dr. A.G.S. Hill, and extended this interest after moving to Leeds in 1956. Apart from a year at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, he spent the rest of his career at Leeds. The University appointed him to a personal chair at the relatively early age of 42 in 1970. Verna Wright’s interests in Rheumatology were wide, and though perhaps best known for his work in the spondyloarthritis field, he was also pivotal in advancing knowledge in biomechanics, therapeutics, rehabilitation, communication, and other aspects of rheumatology, such as the importance of allied health professionals. Wright rapidly become an international name in rheumatology, and his internationalism was also reflected in his approach to appointing research colleagues, many of whom he attracted from abroad, notably post-graduated from Italy, Egypt, and Japan, and from many other countries.
Several returned home with Leeds ideas and reached distinction, such as R. Scarpa, who became Professor of Rheumatology in Naples. He was a voracious reader, and a meticulous note taker through his career – his personal journal covering medical meetings over decades ran to several volumes. And he was responsible for ten books on various rheumatological themes, and produced formidable list of scientific papers and chapters. His work was widely recognized by awards, honorary membership of foreign rheumatology societies, and by presidencies of British organizations associated with his specialty, including the Heberden Society. Verna Wright was a devoted follower of his faith and a keen supporter of the interdenominational Christian youth movement, and he found the time to preach an average of 6 sermons a week. With his wife Esther, he was a dedicated family man, and of their 9 children, several entered the professions. He died in 1998 after a long illness borne with great fortitude (written by J.M.H.Moll 2009).
Oliver FitzGerald MD FRCPI FRCP (IRELAND)
Consultant Rheumatologist (emeritus), St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland and Newman Clinical Research Professor, Conway Institute for Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland
Professor Oliver FitzGerald qualified from UCD in 1978 and completed his postgraduate training both at UCD and at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.
Professor FitzGerald has published over 330 peer-reviewed papers, many on the subject of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. His main research interests in psoriatic arthritis include clinical and therapeutic studies; the development of novel imaging techniques for measuring synovial or entheseal inflammation, including ultrasound and MRI; analysis of synovial and skin cellular and cytokine profiles; and more recently, studies of gene and protein expression in diseased tissue and in liquid biopsies with a view to developing multi-omic biomarkers of PsA diagnosis, outcome and treatment response. He currently receives research-funding support from the Irish Health Research Board and a number of pharmaceutical companies.
Professor FitzGerald has served on a number of editorial boards. He is currently vice-President of the Group for Research and Assessment in Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis (GRAPPA) and a member of both the European Synovitis Study Group and the Ankylosing Spondylitis Assessment Group. As co-chair of the GRAPPA research committee, he has been driving the development of a Collaborative Research Network (CRN) within GRAPPA with the aim of addressing critical areas of unmet need in psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Professor FitzGerald received a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Society for Rheumatology in 2018.