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.