Site News

Rheumatologist and Researcher Amanda Nelson, MD, MSCR, RhMSUS, Named Caregiver of the Month

Dr. Nelson is widely recognized as a physician who is passionate about conducting innovative Rheumatology research, as well as providing outstanding care for her patients. We would like to congratulate her for being named the current "Caregiver of the Month" by the Caregivers at Carolina organization. Dr. Nelson is an Assistant Professor Medicine, a faulty member in the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center, Director of the Musculoskeletal Ultrasound Clinic at the UNC Rheumatology Clinic, and Co-Principal Investigator for the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project.

Learn more about Dr. Nelson's recent recognition as Caregiver of the Month, as well as her ongoing scientific research

You can also learn more about the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project, which is recognized as one of the premier longitudinal research studies worldwide regarding the causes, impact on society, and means of addressing the impact of osteoarthritis. 

Dr. Onyinye Iweala Interviewed by Voice Of America News Service Regarding Alpha Gal Meat Allergy

Awareness among the medical community and consumers is increasing regarding a still poorly understood food allergy named alpha gal, in which some people who are bitten by ticks subsequently develop an allergy to meat. Physician-scientists in the UNC Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology are leading the way in helping shed new light on this very unusual allergy. Onyinye Iweala, MD, PhD, was recently quoted as an expert source for a news story, in which she provides perspective regarding the increasing prevalence of this condition in the U.S. and in other countries.

You can access the story via this link.

Doug Phanstiel, PhD, Awarded National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) R35 “Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award” (MIRA) Grant To Study Mechanisms of Chromatin Looping During Differentiation

Dr. Phanstiel, a UNC Assistant Professor of Cell Biology & Physiology, and faculty member in the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center, has been awarded a 5-Year, $1.25 million grant for his research into how human cells regulate gene transcription during development. His research is focused on better understanding how DNA folds within the cell nucleus, specifically which proteins are involved in governing that folding, and how the resulting three-dimensional structure of chromatin regulates gene transcription. This research addresses fundamental questions regarding how our cells work and how each person’s unique DNA sequence contributes to their development and susceptibility to disease. The results will aid our understanding of a variety of human diseases ranging from arthritis to cancer.

The goal of the “MIRA” grants is to increase the efficiency of NIGMS funding by providing investigators with greater stability and flexibility, thereby enhancing scientific productivity and the chances for important breakthroughs.

More detailed information regarding Dr. Phanstiel’s Research:
Chromatin loops spanning tens to hundreds of kilobases link promoter-distal regulatory elements such as enhancers to the promoters of their target genes. Many of these loops are cell-type specific and are thought to play a critical role in transcriptional control during cellular differentiation and human development. Recent progress in our ability to detect these loops has significantly advanced our knowledge regarding the molecular components of DNA loops; however, the mechanisms and functions of changes in DNA looping during cellular differentiation remain poorly understood.

The goals of Dr. Phanstiel’s research are to identify the mechanisms through which cells establish new loops during cellular differentiation and to determine how the resulting structures contribute to altered transcriptional output. We will accomplish these goals by: (1) mapping loops, regulatory events, and gene transcription with temporal resolution during cellular differentiation, (2) developing and applying new software to identify and visualize dynamic looping events, and (3) performing targeted mechanistic investigations of loops formed during differentiation. The results of this research will determine both the scope and general principles of DNA loop formation during differentiation, provide new tools for the gene regulation community, and illuminate the functions of the non-coding human genome. 


NY Times Magazine Publishes Feature Article on "Alpha Gal" Meat Allergy, Quoting Researchers Scott Commins, MD, PhD; and Onyinye Iweala, MD, PhD, as Leading Experts

Dr. Scott Commins, who was the lead author on the seminal scientific paper that first described this unique meat allergy, and Dr. Onyinye Iweala, a physician-scientist who is working with Dr. Commins to help unravel its mysteries, are using innovative research approaches to better understand and hopefully one day develop an immunotherapy for alpha gal allergy.

To learn more, read the NY Times article via this link.


Dr. Saira Sheikh and Scientific Colleagues Partner with the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) on Newly Funded Grant from DHHS’s Office of Minority Health. Project is Focused on Increasing Involvement of Minority Patients in Lupus Clinical Trials.

Earlier this year, Saira Sheikh, MD, Director of the UNC Rheumatology Lupus Clinic, and Director of the Clinical Trials Program at the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center, as well as Allen Anandarajah, MD, MS, Associate Professor of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, were invited by the ACR to partner with it in developing a grant proposal to the Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS) Office of Minority Health. We are pleased to announce that the grant has now been funded.

Drs. Sheikh and Anandarajah will serve as the subject matter leads for the project and work with the ACR and collaborators in developing and expanding a multistage intervention model to increase providers’ referral of minority patients to clinical trials focused on lupus.  They will each lead a two-year longitudinal study at their institutions targeting medically underserved areas in the Durham Service Area in Durham, NC, and the Monroe Service Area in Rochester, NY, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs.

Serving as expert advisors for this project will be Richard M. Wardrop III, MD, PhD, who is Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at UNC, and is also Governor-elect for the NC Chapter American College of Physicians.  Also serving in the role of expert advisor is Donna Culton, MD, PhD, who is Assistant Professor of Medicine at UNC and President of the North Carolina Dermatology Association.

Congrats to Dr. Sheikh and colleagues on leading this national initiative with the ACR!


Dr. Beth Jonas Provides Insights Regarding How Doctor-Patient Relationships Can Affect Outcomes in Q&A Published by Medical News Website

The treatment of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis is constantly evolving and advancing, thanks to recent scientific advances and new medications being studied and approved every year. Nonetheless, successful treatment remains partly dependent on traditional values such as maintaining open communication and addressing the personal needs and interests of each patient. Dr. Jonas and her colleagues at the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center are passionate about providing outstanding, personalized care and support for patients and their families. In the recent article she provides important insights regarding the best ways to do this in today's rapidly changing medical environment, as we face a shortage of rheumatologists needed to treat our aging population.

You may read article, which covers topics ranging from electronic patient records to training tomorrow's healthcare providers via this link.

UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center’s John Collins, PhD, Receives Irene Diamond Fund/AFAR Postdoctoral Transition Award in Aging

Dr. Collins, a post-doctoral fellow working in Dr. Richard Loeser’s lab, was selected to receive the $120,000, two-year grant following a rigorous scientific competition held by the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR). His research currently focuses on determining how age-related increases in oxidative stress levels contribute to disordered cell signaling in joint tissues to promote the development and progression of osteoarthritis (OA).

Dr. Collins’ research aims to determine how age-related oxidative stress modifies the activity of a protein called sirtuin 6, which has been shown to increase the lifespan of model organisms.

Establishing the importance of sirtuin 6 activity in joint tissues and defining how the cell signaling capabilities of sirtuin 6 are altered as we age will provide us with a better understanding of how aging contributes to the development of OA.  This could lead to new targeted therapies that slow or stop OA progression.

Dr. Edward Iglesia and Dr. Chirag Patel Join Thurston Allergy/Immunology Fellowship Program

TARC welcomes Dr. Iglesia and Dr. Patel to its Allergy/Immunology Fellowship program. Fellows follow a "Core" 2-year (Clinical + Research) program. For some participants there is an optional 3rd year of advanced training in research. All fellows learn the clinical aspects of Allergy and Immunology while working side-by-side with faculty in a traditional ‘attending clinic.’ In addition, they learn to provide longitudinal care in their own "continuity clinic." Learn more about our new fellows and our program...
Dr. Edward Iglesia and Dr. Chirag Patel Join Thurston Allergy/Immunology Fellowship Program click to enlarge Dr. Edward Iglesia; Dr. Chirag Patel

Dr. Edward Iglesia received his MD degree at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, NJ, and subsequently completed a combined residency in Internal Medicine-Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN.  He has additional training from the University of North Carolina in General Preventive Medicine and Public Health, and is currently completing his MPH degree at the UNC Gillings School of Public Health.  He plans to pursue a career focused on public and population health issues in Allergy, including food allergy prevention.

Dr. Chirag Patel attended the University of Toronto where he studied Biological Chemistry.  He completed his MD at Aureus University and his residency in internal medicine at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.  After his residency, he served as a member of the core teaching faculty at Jersey Shore.  His research projects have included studies of procalcitonin as a marker of sepsis and complement amplifying conditions.

 We invite you to learn more about the unique benefits of our Allergy/Immunology Fellowship Program.

Dr. Ayesha Jaleel and Dr. Rami Eltaraboulsi Join Thurston Rheumatology Fellowship Program

The UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center welcomes Dr. Jaleel and Dr. Eltaraboulsi as the newest members of its Rheumatology Fellowship Program. The program trains fellows in the wide variety of skills needed to care for patients with all types of rheumatic disease, which helps ensure they will be well prepared for positions in either clinical care or academic medicine. Learn more about our new fellows as well as our fellowship program...
Dr. Ayesha Jaleel and Dr. Rami Eltaraboulsi Join Thurston Rheumatology Fellowship Program click to enlarge Dr. Ayesha Jaleel; Dr. Rami Eltaraboulsi

Dr. Ayesha Jaleel is originally from India.  She attended college at the University of South Alabama in Mobile where she studied Biomedical Sciences and Spanish.  She received her MD degree from the University of Alabama (UAB) in Birmingham, AL and has just completed her Internal Medicine residency at Baptist Brookwood Health in Homewood, AL.  Dr. Jaleel was the recipient of the ACR RRF Engleman Resident Research Preceptorship under the mentorship of Dr. Ken Saag at UAB. 

Dr. Rami Eltaraboulsi grew up in North Carolina.  He graduated from NC State where he majored in Biochemistry.  He received his MD degree from the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC where he served on the curriculum task force.  Dr. Eltaraboulsi has just completed a 4 year MED/PEDs residency at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.  During his residency he worked with Dr. Ginny Steen on racial disparities in scleroderma.   

We invite you to learn more about the comprehensive training offered by our Rheumatology Fellowship Program.


2018-19 Recruitment Season Now Open For UNC Rheumatology and Allergy/Immunology Fellowship Programs

UNC is renowned for its rich and dynamic Fellowship training programs, which provide cutting-edge and multidimensional learning environments with frequent access to mentors who are the leaders in their field. Learn more about our programs, which are training tomorrow’s leading healthcare practitioners, and preparing them to successfully pursue a wide variety of career choices.
2018-19 Recruitment Season Now Open For UNC Rheumatology and Allergy/Immunology Fellowship Programs  click to enlarge Dr. Beth Jonas, Rheumatology Fellowship Director; Dr. Edwin Kim, Allergy/Immunology Fellowship Director

The UNC Rheumatology Fellowship Program is recognized as one of the best and most thorough in the U.S. Fellows receive top-quality training in the wide variety of skills needed to become independent consultants and primary providers for patient with all types of rheumatic diseases.  The program is renowned for the quality and depth of its training.  This includes a rigorous program of didactic training, and clinical experience that includes an outpatient continuity clinic, complex inpatient consultations, and specialty rotations that are tailored to the interests of each Fellow. The program also offers the option of combining traditional clinical training with a dedicated “Research Track” program offering specialized, mentored training for those who are interested in becoming independent physician-scientists.
-More information regarding this program, including timing and application requirements is available here.

The UNC Allergy/Immunology Fellowship Program provides participants with cutting-edge training across a broad range of patients, diseases and research areas.  Twelve teaching faculty, 4 clinical training sites, and balanced adult and pediatric training ensure a strong clinical background that is further highlighted by an emphasis on longitudinal care through a fellow-centric 2-year “continuity” clinic.  Research training is imbedded in the “Core” ACGME-accredited 2-year training program (1 year with a clinical focus followed by 1 year with a research focus).  This research experience is further augmented by the optional addition of a fully funded 3rd year dedicated to advanced research training for competitive fellows considering a research scientist career.  
– More information regarding this program, including timing and application requirements is available here.

You can also learn more about why UNC and NC are a wonderful place to live and learn.  



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