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Saira Z. Sheikh, MD

Linda Coley Sewell Distinguished Professor of Medicine
Associate Professor of Medicine
Director, UNC Rheumatology Lupus Clinic
Director, Clinical Trials Program at UNC’s Thurston Arthritis Research Center

Specialty Areas: diagnosis and management of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE / Lupus), Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and urticaria (hives).

Chronology: MD: King Edward Medical University, 2003; Internship and Residency Internal Medicine: University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, 2006-2009; Chief Residency: University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, 2009-2010; Rheumatology Fellowship: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, 2010-2013; Allergy & Immunology Fellowship: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, 2011-2013; Assistant Professor of Medicine: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, 2013-2020; Associate Professor of Medicine: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, 2020-present; Linda Coley Sewell Distinguished Professor of Medicine: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, 2021-Present; Director: UNC Rheumatology Lupus Clinic, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, 2014–present; Director: UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center, Clinical Trials Program, 2016 (current role).

Description of research and/or clinical interests: Dr. Sheikh is board certified in Internal Medicine, Rheumatology and Allergy & Immunology. The focus of her work is on answering scientific questions that directly impact the care of patients with complex immunologic diseases, in order to advance health and healing. Her practice is devoted to the care of a large cohort of patients with lupus, a significant percentage of whom belong to ethnic or racial minorities. Patients come from all 100 North Carolina counties and the Southeastern United States. Dr. Sheikh is working on a national level to help address racial disparities in lupus clinical trials.

She is Principal Investigator on numerous clinical trials studying new therapeutics in lupus, and serves on several national lupus clinical trials consortiums. She is the Director of the Clinical Trials Program at the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center, and Director of the UNC Rheumatology Lupus Clinic.

Dr. Sheikh is interested in the development of diagnostic assays and potential biomarkers for autoimmune diseases, and in collaboration with a local biotech company, she has received funding from the NIH to commercialize development of novel cell based assays to diagnose and track autoimmune diseases. Using cutting-edge insights in immunology, her team strives to better understand and treat autoimmune diseases.

Dr. Sheikh is also interested in the implementation of immunizations in adults with autoimmune diseases, and is involved in promoting awareness regarding the importance of vaccinations in this target patient population. She enjoys teaching and is actively involved in the education of medical students, residents and sub-specialty fellows.

Book Chapters

  1. Sheikh SZ. 2020 Critical conversations in clinical trials. In: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2020. Health Literacy in Clinical Research: Practice and Impact: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. p 58-68. ISBN 978-0-309-49969-9
  2. Sheikh SZ, Burks AW. 2014. Oral allergen immunotherapy for food. In: Akdis CA, Agache I, editors. Global Atlas of Allergy. Zurich (Switzerland): European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. p. 309-310.

Published Original Research

  1. Sheikh SZ, Scheinberg MA, Wei JCC, Tegzova D, Stohl W, Acayaba de Toledo R, Mucenic T, Banfi MRA, Maksimowicz-McKinnon K, Abud-Mendoza C, Navarra S, Garcia M, Garcia-De La Torre I, Ros JO, Levy RA, Bass D, Terrés JR, Punwaney R, Harris J, Nami A, Pierce A, Thorneloe KS, Ji B, Roth D. 2020. Mortality and adverse events of special interest with intravenous belimumab for adult patients with active, auto-antibody-positive systemic lupus erythematosus (BASE): a multicentre, double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, Phase 4 trial. The Lancet Rheumatology (in press, available online). DOI: 10.1016/S2665-9913(20)30355-6
  1. Englund TR, Kinlaw AC, Sheikh SZ. 2020. Rise and Fall: Hydroxychloroquine and COVID-19 Global Trends: Interest, Political Influence, and Potential Implications. ACR Open Rheumatology 2 (12): p760-766. DOI: 10.1002/acr2.11207
  1. Sheikh SZ, Iglesia EGA, Underwood M, Saxena-Beem S, Kwan M. 2019. Perceptions of a Continuing Medical Education Activity to Increase Knowledge of Vaccination in Adults with Chronic Inflammatory Conditions Among Clinicians. Lupus: Open Access 4(2):146. PMID: 32051964. DOI: 10.35248/2684-1630.19.4.146
  2. Sheikh SZ, Wanty NI, Stephens J, Holtz KD, McCalla S. 2019. The State of Lupus Clinical Trials: Minority Participation Needed. J. Clin. Med.8(8), 1245. PMID: 31426523. DOI: 10.3390/jcm8081245
  3. Sun EY, Alvarez C, Sheikh SZ. 2019. Association of Lupus Nephritis with Coronary Artery Disease by ISN/RPS Classification: Results from a Large Real-World Lupus Population. ACR Open Rheumatology. DOI: 10.1002/acr2.1035
  4. Sheikh SZ, Kaufman K, Gordon BB, Hicks S, Love A, Walker J, Callahan LF, Cleveland RJ. 2019. Evaluation of the Self-Directed Format of Walk With Ease in Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: The Walk-SLE Pilot Study. Lupus 28(6):764-770. PMID: 31042128. DOI:
  5. Sheikh SZ, Hammer AE, Fox NL, Groark J, Struemper H, Roth D, Gordon D. 2016. Evaluation of a novel autoinjector for subcutaneous self-administration of belimumab in systemic lupus erythematosus. J. Clin. Pharmacol. Ther. 54(11): 914-922. PMID: 27668697. DOI: 10.5414/CP202623.
  6. Sheikh SZ, Burks AW. 2013. Recent advances in the diagnosis and therapy of peanut allergy. Expert Rev. Clin. Immunol. 9(6): 551-560. PMID: 23730885. DOI: 10.1586/eci.13.33.

 Expert Commentary 

  1. Sheikh S. Diversity in lupus clinical trials: why is it important? [published online May 15, 2019]. Rheumatology Consultant.

 Published Abstracts 

  1. Sun EY, Alvarez C, Callahan LF, Sheikh S. 2020. Disparities in Patient Portal Use Among Patients with Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases in a Large Academic Medical Center [abstract 0049]. Arthritis Rheumatol.; 72 (suppl 10).
  2. Allen KD, Beauchamp T, Rini C, Keefe FJ, Cleveland B, Grimm K, Huffman K, Hu D, Santana AE, Saxena Beem S, Walker J, Sheikh S. 2020. Pilot Study of an Internet-Based Pain Coping Skills Training Program for Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus [abstract 1146]. Arthritis Rheumatol.; 72 (suppl 10).
  3. Sheikh S, Wanty N, Mccalla S, Santana A, Saxena Beem S, Walker J, Holt D, Howell A, Holtz K, Williams S, Anandrajah A. A model to improve minority patient recruitment in lupus clinical trials – the American College of Rheumatology MIMICT project experience. Abstract accepted to the 2020 European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) E-Congress, June 2020. Ann Rheum Dis 2020; 79 (supp 1): 1963 (AB1360-HRP (2020))
  4. Cooley ID, Gibson KL, Derebail VK, Alvarez C, Poulton CJ, Blazek LN, Love A, Hogan SL, Jennette JC, Falk RJ, Sheikh SZ. Venous Thromboembolism in Lupus Nephritis by ISN/ROS Biopsy Classification. Poster presentation at the 2019 ASN Conference. J Am Soc Nephrol, 30: 2019; p 668 (Abstract FR-PO879)
  5. Cooley I, Derebail V, Gibson K, Alvarez C, Poulton C, Blazek L, Love A, Hogan, S, Jennette JC, Falk RJ, Sheikh SZ. The Association of Lupus Nephritis Histopathologic Classification with Venous Thromboembolism is modified by Age at Biopsy. Poster presentation at the 2019 ACR/ARP Meeting. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2019; 71 (suppl 10).
Dr. Saira Sheikh