The story behind RheumaCura


The story behind RheumaCura began on the summit of Switzerland’s highest mountain, the Dufourspitze, which is in the Monte Rosa massif bordering Italy and Switzerland. RheumaCura President, Judith Safford, tells the story of how she got there in her TED talk of 2017.


On the summit of the Dufourspitze there is a plaque commemorating the first ascent which includes a quote by Seneca: “What you think to be the peak is nothing but a step.”


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On reading those words Judith realised that although she had just completed a lifelong dream of climbing Switzerland’s highest peak, this was a beginning and not the end of a story. She had proved to herself that despite a potentially crippling and incurable arthritis, she could overcome physical challenges. The next step would be to bring this insight to a broader community and to contribute to a change in the way that rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases are treated. From her own experiences she knew that these diseases cause enormous suffering and are neglected in medicine. However, Judith was convinced that huge potential exists to improve the lives of sufferers, but these were not being fully explored in health care. Above all she felt that not enough research was being done to understand the causes of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases and how patients’ symptoms could be relieved. Furthermore, the existing research often did not address the issues that were most important to those affected.

No Swiss organisation is actively fundraising and working to find better treatments and cures for rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. Furthermore, the involvement of patients by using their knowledge and skills in research to improve it is in its infancy in Switzerland. So she decided to start this missing organisation: a foundation for patient-centred research into rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases.


As she told this story in talks and in other networks, she quickly found three people who wanted to be part of this story and together the four founding board members developed the ideas until the RheumaCura foundation was born. You can read about the founding team here.