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UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center Experts Present at Combined Conference for American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and the Rheumatology Research Foundation (RRF)

Thurston Researchers recently attended the ACR/RRF conference, where they shared important findings from a new study related to innovative use of sonography for patients with osteoarthritis (OA), and participated in a two-day Rheumatology Research Workshop designed to promote research collaborations and mentoring for early-career researchers in rheumatology.
UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center Experts Present at Combined Conference for American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and the Rheumatology Research Foundation (RRF)  click to enlarge Yvonne Golightly, PT, PhD

The presentations at ACR/RRF included:

Amanda Nelson, MD, MSCR, RhMSUS
“Sonography of OA by Rheumatologists (SOAR): The Johnston County OA Project”
A presentation on the first year of progress of SOAR, which is a new study being conducted by the Johnston County Project, and which is funded by the RRF Innovative Research Award.  

Portia Flowers, PhD
“Cross Sectional Analysis of Foot Osteoarthritis Frequency and Associated Factors: The Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project."  
 A presentation as part of the Rheumatology Research Workshop on the common occurrence of osteoarthritis and pain of the foot in the Johnston County Project, and the key factors related to foot osteoarthritis.

Yvonne Golightly, PT, PhD
Do’s and “Don’ts for Successful Menteeship”  
A summary presented in the Rheumatology Research Workshop as part of the “early investigators track” (fellows, residents, medical school/graduate students).

Portia Flowers, PhD






Portia Flowers, PhD

Dr. Abigail Gilbert's Published Research Discussing Connection Between Restless Sleep and Reduced Physical Activity in Osteoarthritis Patients is Reported by Reuter's Health and National News Outlets

Many people with osteoarthritis (OA) don't reach the recommended amount of physical activity that is so key to managing their condition. Research conducted by Dr. Abigail Gilbert with the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center helps shed new light on how and why restless sleep and lowered activity levels are intertwined for people with OA. Dr. Gilbert's study was published in Arthritis Care & Research and has been written about by Reuters Health and a number of national news outlets, as the findings provide important insights for physicians and patients.

You can read more about the scientific findings that were published in Arthritis Care & Research or the summary presented by Reuters Health and reported in publications such as MedPage Today 


NPR's "Morning Edition" Interviews Dr. Scott Commins For Story on Alpha-Gal Meat Allergy

It may sound surprising, but some people develop an allergy to meat named after being bitten by a tick. Dr. Scott Commins authored the seminal paper that first described "alpha-gal" allergy and is one of leading experts in the U.S. He treats patients with the condition and is one of a handful of scientists conducting research into this still poorly understood allergy. If you'd like to learn more about alpha-gal and its increasing prevalence in the U.S., Click Here.

Dr. Saira Sheikh, Dr. Leslie Parise, and Local Biotech Company EpiCypher Receive NIH Grant To Conduct Research Focused on Developing New Assays to Serve as Tools for Diagnosis and Biomarkers for Autoimmune Diseases

Dr. Saira Sheikh, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Director of Clinical Trials at the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center, and Director of the UNC Rheumatology Lupus Clinic; Dr. Leslie Parise, UNC Professor and Chair of Biochemistry and Biophysics; and EpiCypher, a biotechnology company located in Research Triangle Park, N.C., have received an NIH Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase I grant to commercialize development of novel assays to study PAD4 activity.
Dr. Saira Sheikh, Dr. Leslie Parise, and Local Biotech Company EpiCypher Receive NIH Grant To Conduct Research Focused on Developing New Assays to Serve as Tools for Diagnosis and Biomarkers for Autoimmune Diseases click to enlarge Saira Sheikh, MD

PAD4-dependent conversion of arginine to citrulline on nucleosomes is pathophysiological and associated with many diseases, including inflammation and autoimmune disease.  Thus, PAD4 is a valuable drug target and nucleosome citrullination is a promising blood-accessible biomarker. However, current cell-based assays used to measure nucleosome citrullination are lacking.

The assays resulting from this work will be useful for the development of diagnostic assays and potential biomarkers for autoimmune diseases.

Allergy/Immunology Fellow Amika Sood, MD, Selected to Present at American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Conference

The AAP has selected an abstract submitted by Dr. Sood and invited her to present her clinical case at the Academy's annual conference in Orlando later this year. The AAP also chose Dr. Sood as one of its travel grant recipients. UNC Thurston Arthritis Center Allergy/Immunology Fellows as well as Rheumatology Fellows are encouraged to attend and participate in scientific conferences to supplement their learning and to showcase their work. Learn more about our Fellowships, for which enrollment season is now open, by clicking this LINK.

The UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center is renowned for it cutting-edge fellowships, which provide rich and robust learning environments that provide excellent training for tomorrow's leading healthcare professionals.  The enrollment season is now open.  

Click the links below to learn more: 

UNC Allergy/Immunology Fellowship Program

UNC Rheumatology Fellowship Program

Dr. Joanne Jordan Receives “Distinguished Alumni” Award from the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association, For Decades of Professional Excellence in Medicine, Scientific Research, and Mentoring

A 1981 graduate of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dr. Jordan received the prestigious award in recognition of her personal accomplishments and professional achievements as a clinician, researcher, mentor, and thought leader. Dr. Jordan’s recognition from Johns Hopkins cited many of her achievements, including her current role as the Joseph P. Archie, Jr. Eminent Professor of Medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, and its Vice Dean for Faculty Affairs and Leadership Development. She was also recognized for leading research initiatives that have had significant scientific and policy impact.

Over the past 30 years at UNC, Dr. Jordan has previously served in several leadership roles, including Division Chief for Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology, and Director of the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center. 

In addition, for 27 years she was Principal Investigator for the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project, a leading population-based study that focuses on racial/ethnic and gender disparities in risk factors and outcomes for osteoarthritis and chronic illness.  She has served on the Board of Directors of several prestigious professional associations and medical societies, such as the American College of Rheumatology and the Osteoarthritis Research Society International.  She also chaired the Chronic Osteoarthritis Management Initiative of the U.S. Bone and Joint Initiative from 2012-2015, and served as Deputy Editor for Osteoarthritis and Cartilage from 2008-2016.  

One of Dr. Jordan’s lifelong passions and sources of professional satisfaction has been in the mentoring of students and faculty, for which she has been nationally recognized multiple times, including receiving the award for Excellence in Investigative Mentoring from the American College of Rheumatology, and the Inspirational Physician Award from the American Medical Association. 

”Receiving this recognition from Johns Hopkins during the celebration of the School of Medicine’s 125th anniversary was especially meaningful," said Dr. Jordan.  "It gave me a tremendous opportunity to reflect on the course of my career, the unexpected directions it has taken me, and the profound influence that my Hopkins mentors have had and continue to have in my life.”   

Jacquelyn Smith, MD; Amika Sood, MD; and Alfredo Rivadeneira, MD, Are Inducted Into UNC Academy of Educators

Congratulations to three of our physicians for being inducted into the UNC Academy of Educators, which focuses on promoting excellence in teaching and supports faculty development. Inductees are recognized not only for teaching but also for peer-to-peer leadership as they embrace the goals of the UNC School of Medicine's educational mission.

Inspirational Patient Selected as 1 of 10 Veterans in the U.S. to Be Honored by VA For Its "Women Veterans Athletes Initiative"

Meet Bernardine Donato, who throughout her career as a Navy nurse, and a US Air National Guard tactical flight nurse, has used strength training, skydiving and running to stay active and keep her body well conditioned. The days of serving in both Operation Desert Shield as well as Desert Story are over, but even in retirement, she refuses to let arthritis slow her down, as she continues to compete in athletic competitions as well as community art contests. She's an inspiration for all of us, including her physician, Dr. Rumey Ishizawar. Enjoy reading Bernadine's story...

Being “retired” is a relative term for former U.S. Navy nurse and Air Force aeromedical evacuation nurse Bernardine Donato, R.N.  Despite having two autoimmune conditions, one which affects her joints and the other affecting her muscles, Bernadine is a competitive athlete who frequently wins within her age bracket in a variety of events. 

“When faced with a challenge, you can let it dictate your life or chart your own course,” says Bernardine.  She is an active participant with Team Red, White, and Blue (RWB), a veterans organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through social and physical activity.  With Team RWB, Bernadine actively hikes, bikes, and runs, while participating in a variety of races.  She also volunteers and engages in the arts. 

To help her to meet these physical challenges head on and continue to pursue the hobbies she loves, Bernardine is cared for by a group of University of North Carolina physicians specializing in Internal Medicine, Neurology, and Rheumatology.  Dr. Rumey Ishizawar, who is the Medical Director of the UNC Hospitals Rheumatology Specialty Clinic and a physician-scientist with the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center in Chapel Hill, NC, manages Bernadine’s autoimmune-mediated inflammatory arthritis in collaboration with her other physicians. 

“My goal for Bernardine and other patients I treat who have arthritis is to provide the best care, in order to allow them to continue an active lifestyle,” says Dr. Ishizawar.  “Bernardine is an inspiration to me as her physician and others with arthritis because of her positive outlook and active engagement in sports as well as the community.”

“Keeping my mind and body healthy with sports and other interests is essential in my life,” says Bernardine.  “For someone who is very active like me, it’s crucial to have a doctor who really listens, values your input, and works closely with you to find solutions that fit your lifestyle.  Dr. Ishizawar does that, and that’s one of the reasons she’s such an amazing physician.”  

Bernardine was recently selected as one of 10 veterans from throughout the U.S. to be honored by the Department of Veterans affairs’ Women Veterans Athletes Initiative, and profiled on the VA website.  Most recently, she was featured as the guest speaker and Veteran Engagement Director for a Durham, NC, VA town hall meeting.  You can read her story and listen to her interview via this link.

Congratulations to Bernardine Donato, who we thank for her 24 years of service in the U.S. military, as well as for being an inspiration for others with arthritis and autoimmune conditions.  Her upcoming goals include activities such as running in 5K and an 8K races. 

Even before she runs the races, however, it’s clear by anyone’s standards that she’s a winner.   

Lara Longobardi, PhD, and Brian Diekman, PhD, Publish Scientific Papers Highlighting Innovative Arthritis Research

Dr. Lara Longobardi was the lead author on a scientific paper examining the association between a biomarker and osteoarthritis of the knee. The research she is conducting with physician-researchers Amanda Nelson, Joanne Jordan, and other colleagues was published in the journal, "Osteoarthritis and Cartilage." Dr. Brian Diekman also recently published a paper regarding his research into cartilage aging in osteoarthritis. His research appeared in "Aging Cell."

Watch Our New Video and Learn How the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center is Pioneering New Approaches to Treating Arthritis, Allergies and Autoimmune Disease While Also Training Tomorrow's Leading Healthcare Professionals

May is Arthritis Awareness Month, and an excellent time to learn more about the exciting and innovative work we're doing to help address a disease that now affects 1 in 4 Americans, and which continues to become more prevalent. Our scientists and physicians are also working hard to find new ways to help people who are affected by Allergies and Autoimmune diseases.

You watch our video via this link


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