Site News

Welcome Kirsten Ambrose, MS to the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance Team

We are thrilled to welcome Kirsten Ambrose, MS to the Thurston Arthritis Research Center as the new Program Manager for the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance (OAAA). The OAAA consortium was recently awarded to TARC under the direction of Dr. Leigh Callahan.
The OAAA is a national coalition of concerned organizations committed to elevating Osteoarthritis (OA) as a national health priority and promoting effective policy solutions that aim to address the individual and national toll of OA.  They work with the health community to ensure people with OA have the access, skills and capacity to benefit from effective and proven interventions.  The OAAA has three working groups focused on physical activity, injury prevention and weight management.  
Kirsten comes to us after serving as Project Director for the Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders, working with their clinical trials operation, developing pre-award grant proposals, and contributing to strategic planning.  She has also served as a Research Specialist in the Center for Neurosensory Disorders in the School of Dentistry, as a Consultant/Project Manager for Algynomics, Inc, as a consultant writer/editor for various organizations, and as a Lead Research Specialist in the Chronic Fatigue and Pain Research Center at the University of Michigan.  

Kirsten received her BA in Psychology from Carnegie-Mellon University and her Masters of Science in Exercise Science from The George Washington University.  She is the author of 21 scientific papers and 35 abstracts.  She is committed to the benefits and importance of physical activity for overall health, illness prevention and rehabilitation from injury, as reflected in her choice of graduate study, her professional experience in research and personal training of individuals with special needs, and her personal lifestyle.  
Kirsten officially joined us on July 14 and is working on the transition of operations of the OAAA to UNC – including updating its website, organizing Lunch and Learn webinars, writing and distributing its newsletter, managing membership and subscription lists, working on member recruitment and engagement, managing and supporting the three workgroups, and supporting the Steering Committee.   These many roles will not only serve the OAAA, but also the Chronic OA Management Initiative (COAMI), the MCRC, and TARC in general.  

Dr. Rebekah Layton joins TARC and the PALS team

Dr. Layton recently joined the Thurston Arthritis Research Center and our Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Center (MCRC) as a member of the Partners in Active Living Study (PALS) research team.

Rebekah “Beka” Layton earned her Ph.D. (Social and Personality Psychology, 2014) and M.A. (Psychology, 2011) from the University at Albany, State University of New York, and her B.A. (Psychology and History & Sociology of Science, 2005) from the University of Pennsylvania. Rebekah is also a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom where she served as a Military Police Officer in Baghdad, Iraq. As a paratrooper, she was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and completed her active duty service in Seoul, Korea as a Captain in the US Army.

Her research focus is in self-control and goal-setting, with additional research interests in physical fitness activity, emotion, and mindfulness.  Rebekah is thrilled to join the PALS team, led by Dr. Christine Rini. She is joined by her husband Seth, daughter Ariya, cat Sonic, and dog Lola. Rebekah loves to row (crew) and sing in her free time, and enjoys all things Broadway. She originally hails from Rensselaerville, NY, where she grew up in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, loves hiking along with any outdoor activity. 

Please join us in welcoming Beka!

Dr. Joanne Jordan discusses Muscles, Joints, Aches and Related Diseases

Dr. Cristy Page and Dr. Adam Goldstein with the UNC Family Medicine’s Weekly Health Radio Show YOUR HEALTH®, have a conversation with Dr. Joanne Jordan.

Tune in via podcast at:

Listen live on:
WCHL 97.9 FM, Saturday (7/26) at 9 AM, Sunday (7/27) at 9 AM & 5 PM and Monday (7/28) at 6 & 10 PM

WBNE 103.7 FM Saturday (7/26) at 3PM

KKAG 88.7 FM Sunday (7/26) at 7 AM

Nancy Wade and Linda Miles retire

Nancy Wade and Linda Miles will be dearly missed at JoCo and will always be a part of the UNC TARC and JoCo family!  We extend our warmest wishes to Nancy and Linda as they start this new chapter in their lives.

Janice Woodard, JoCo Project Manager for over 20 years, shares a few thoughts about two special ladies;

“Ask Linda." That has been the most used phrase in Johnston County for the past 18 years. Linda Miles has been the go to person for many projects.  Her contributions were invaluable keeping everyone organized, from making sure the participants' information was updated to creating forms for all the different studies.  She generally made the work easier for all of us! We will miss her experience, her willingness to always help and her friendship, but we are excited about this next season in her life. We all wish her many years of relaxation pursuing leisurely interests.

If you ask Nancy about JoCo, she always says there is never a dull moment in the county!  There all always new projects to work on and all of them are interesting. Nancy’s smile and friendship have been so important to our JoCo family and we will miss her contagious positivity! Nancy will be missed by all of us in the office and also by the participants who have worked with her. Even though she is retiring, we will know where to find her, at her pool, at the beach or just hanging out with her grandchildren.

UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center to lead Osteoarthritis Action Alliance

Leigh F. Callahan, PhD, will serve as Director for the OAAA

The UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center has been selected as the new home for the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance (OAAA), the Arthritis Foundation announced on May 28.

The OAAA is a national coalition of concerned organizations mobilized by the Arthritis Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This coalition is committed to elevating osteoarthritis (OA) as a national health priority and promoting effective policy solutions that aim to address the individual and national toll of OA.
“Under the leadership of Drs. Joanne Jordan and Leigh F. Callahan at UNC, the Thurston Arthritis Research Center is uniquely positioned to take on the OAAA,” said Melanie Thompson, Osteoarthritis Action Alliance manager at the Arthritis Foundation.

“They currently have a National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases-funded Multidisclipinary Clinical Research Center (MCRC) titled ‘Mitigating the Public Health Impact of Osteoarthritis,’ and the OAAA goals are completely congruent with the goals of the MCRC.
The MCRC draws together multiple units and investigators at UNC interested in OA into novel collaborative relationships. Dr. Callahan was also part of the Steering Committee for the National Public Health Agenda for Osteoarthritis and has been involved in the OAAA since the beginning. The Arthritis Foundation remains committed to the OAAA and will provide UNC financial support to lead the OAAA through a cooperative agreement with the CDC,” Thompson said.

Leigh F. Callahan, PhD, the Mary Link Briggs Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center, will serve as Director of the OAAA. “We are thrilled to be selected to bring this consortium to UNC and the Thurston Arthritis Research Center,” said Joanne M. Jordan, MD, MPH, the Joseph P. Archie, Jr. Eminent Professor of Medicine, Chief of the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology and Director of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center. “Dr. Callahan is the perfect leader for this initiative, which will dovetail beautifully with other efforts we have undertaken to improve the care of people with osteoarthritis or at high risk for osteoarthritis.”

Read the full story in Vital Signs

Dr. Dore selected to present his research at the 2014 American College of Rheumatology Research Workshop

Dr. Dore was selected to present his research study “The Relationship between Lower Limb Osteoarthritis Burden and Risk for Falls: The Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project” at the 2014 American College of Rheumatology Research Workshop in Seattle, Washington in June. This course is a two- day workshop designed to promote interactions between young and established investigators to foster collaboration and career mentoring.

Matthew J. Billard, PhD receives public policy fellowship from AAI

On May 1, The American Association of Immunologists (AAI) launched the fourth year of its Public Policy Fellows Program (PPFP), a program designed to engage postdoctoral fellows and junior scientists in public policy activities that impact biomedical research. Following careful review of the applications received, the AAI Committee on Public Affairs named the following ten individuals as the 2014-2015 AAI Public Policy Fellows.

Matthew J. Billard, PhD
Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. Billard's research is broadly concerned with cellular trafficking during normal inflammation and invasive disease states, such as arthritis and breast cancer. Dr. Billard conducts interdisciplinary work that combines traditional cell biology techniques with mathematical modeling.

View the full announcement of Dr. Billard's fellowship online

2014 OARSI World Congress - Paris, France

Numerous faculty and staff of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center attended the OARSI World Congress in Paris, France April 24 - 27.

Welcome new faculty member Kelli Allen, PhD

Please join us in welcoming our newest faculty member, Kelli Allen, PhD, to UNC and to Thurston.  We are very excited to welcome Kelli to our team as of May 1, 2014. Dr. Allen is a Professor of Medicine and a Research Health Scientist whose research interests are health services and behavioral interventions for people with musculoskeletal conditions, particularly osteoarthritis (OA). She has advanced degrees in Exercise and Sports Science, and in Health and Sports Science. This expertise is distinctly important in OA and in our new initiatives in post-traumatic OA with the Departments of Exercise and Sports Science and Orthopedics.

Now at UNC, she is a part of UNC’s Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Center (MCRC) focused on mitigating the public health impact of osteoarthritis. MCRC members have been leading the efforts of the US Bone and Joint Initiative and the OA Action Alliance, and a primary focus of Dr. Allen’s research has been the development of both patient-based and provider-based interventions for managing OA.

Dr. Allen has conducted the majority of her work with the Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare system in Durham, North Carolina and was the recipient of a VA Merit Review Entry Program award to develop a telephone-based self-management intervention for OA in veterans. She was subsequently Principal Investigator of a VA Health Service Research and Development funded clinical trial of that intervention and based on the results of that study, Dr. Allen is now leading a randomized trial, Patient and Provider Interventions for Managing Osteoarthritis in Primary Care.

In addition to a refined patient-based intervention, this study is evaluating a novel primary care provider-based intervention, in which patient-specific treatment recommendations are issued at the point of care. This provider-based intervention has the potential to be a practical solution for addressing known gaps in quality of care for OA.

This is particularly important work, since there has been almost no research of provider or health system level interventions to address OA management, particularly in the US. Dr. Allen’s work in this area will provide the complementary expertise to our center to ensure that we are the leaders in the country in this area.

Examining the role of health disparities and outcomes in OA and other types of arthritis has been a focus of a number of investigators in the MCRC and at TARC for the past 15 years. A second theme in Dr. Allen’s research is understanding and reducing disparities in health care and outcomes for patients with OA. She has been lead author on several papers that have described racial differences in OA prevalence and outcomes and also delineated factors underlying these disparities. One key result of this work has been the identification of modifiable factors that contribute to racial disparities in osteoarthritis-related pain. In particular, in two separate cohorts, she and her colleagues found that psychosocial factors and pain coping were key mediators of this disparity, informing interventions to tailor and test a pain coping skills training program for African Americans with OA.

Dr. Allen has contributed to 60 peer reviewed publications, 36 as primary author, as well as three invited editorials; the vast majority of these publications are related to OA care and outcomes. Dr. Allen has been PI of five randomized clinical trials that, when completed, will have delivered behavioral and / or health services interventions to about 1,900 patients with hip and knee OA.  She also has a newly-funded grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to evaluate physical therapy interventions in OA. 


We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Allen to our team as her work is filling gaps and answering practical questions about optimal models and processes of care for the chronic management of OA.  


Awareness Programs in May

May is a busy month for the Thurston Arthritis Research Center and many of of our partner organizations. May is Arthritis Awareness Month, Lupus Awareness Month and Food Allergy Action Month!

May is a busy month for the Thurston Arthritis Research Center and many of of our partner organizations. May is Arthritis Awareness Month, Lupus Awareness Month and Food Allergy Action Month!

The TARC Heels had a team for the Arthritis Foundation's Walk to Cure Arthritis on May 10th (a few pictures from the event can be seen in the slideshow to the right).

The Arthritis Foundation raises funds and awareness to fight the nation's leading cause of disability. We are all helping the millions of people who live with arthritis pain which is painful and can last a lifetime. Tragically, it impacts 1 in 5 American adults and 300,000 children. It's time to find a cure!


Our faculty and staff will participate in Put On Purple Day by wearing purple on May 16! This is a special day when local communities rally to bring greater attention to lupus by wearing purple and telling others why they support people affected by lupus. In recognition of Lupus Awareness Month, the Lupus Foundation of America is calling on the public to take action. Lupus is a mysterious and devastating disease that ravages different parts of the body and has no known cause and no known cure.


Our faculty and staff will support Food Allergy Research and Education by participating in the #TealTakeover

Teal is the color of food allergy awareness and communities across the country will be decked out in teal to show their spirit. FARE has declared the month of May Food Allergy Action Month to raise awareness and to inspire action on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies. We can improve understanding of food allergy, advance the search for a cure, create safer environments and help people live well with food allergies.

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