Advances in management of the rheumatic diseases over the past 20 years have been substantial. Over this period, survival of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus improved dramatically. Previously fatal renal crisis in scleroderma became treatable. Survival in Wegener's granulomatosis improved from 7% after 2 years to over 90%. Gout became an easily and effectively managed disease. Polymyalgia rheumatica became readily recognized and dramatically treatable. Less quantifiably, the shift toward more aggressive use of an increasing repertoire of "disease-modifying" agents in rheumatoid arthritis gave hope of having altered the natural history of the disease. Replacement of destroyed joints dramatically reduced pain and improved function in appropriately selected individuals. An increasingly broad mission of the National Institutes of Health has provided support for systematic evaluation of clinical management, including the Multi-Purpose Arthritis Centers, the American Rheumatism Association Medical Information System, and the Cooperating Clinics, effectively complementing research in fundamental mechanisms of disease. The role of the concerned clinician and the clinical epidemiologist in identification of new syndromes and new diseases and in innovating approaches to their management has been extremely important; this role appears far from over.