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Dr. Kate Queen, a long-time TARC collaborator, receives Medical Alumni Distinguished Faculty Award

Dr. Queen is recognized for years of innovative research and outstanding clinical care.
Dr. Kate Queen, a long-time TARC collaborator, receives Medical Alumni Distinguished Faculty Award click to enlarge Dr. Kate Queen (left), receives award from Dr. Wesley Burks (right)
Dr. Kate Queen, a long-time TARC collaborator, receives Medical Alumni Distinguished Faculty Award click to enlarge Dr. Joanne Jordan (left), Dr. Kate Queen (right)

Dr. Kate Queen has received the UNC Medical Alumni Distinguished Faculty Award, which honors excellence in teaching, contributions to medicine in the state of North Carolina, and leadership in the continuing education of practicing physicians.  The award also recognizes healthcare leaders who have improved communication between UNC faculty, alumni, and residents of the state.   

An Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine, Dr. Queen has a long association with the Thurston Arthritis Research Center (TARC) and has been involved with the Center in many different capacities.  She is a former member of the TARC Board of Advisors, and has maintained numerous research relationships with TARC investigators for over 15 years.  Her research projects have reflected what she is most passionate about, including the study of; osteoporosis prevention, genetics of generalized osteoarthritis, physical activity, and health literacy.  She also serves on the External Advisory Board of the Thurston Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Center (MCRC), where she contributes valuable insights as a physician and researcher.  She is currently collaborating with TARC on a trial known as “WE-CAN” (Weight Loss and Exercise for Communities with Arthritis in NC), which is evaluating the role of diet and exercise in the management of osteoarthritis. 

“Throughout her career, Dr. Queen has demonstrated a remarkable depth of clinical expertise, combined with research acumen, and a passion for helping ensure patients have access to care,” said Dr. Joanne Jordan, Director of TARC, and Chief of the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology.  Dr. Jordan nominated Dr. Queen for the award and adds that she and her colleagues at TARC look forward to continuing their partnership with Dr. Queen in order to further advance the field of arthritis research.  

Thurston Arthritis Research Center scientists shed new light on a specific mechanism involved with lupus

Funding from the Lupus Research Institute helps to pave the way for additional research for this often debilitating disease.
Thurston Arthritis Research Center scientists shed new light on a specific mechanism involved with lupus click to enlarge Barbara Vilen, PhD and Jennifer Rogers, MD

Researchers at the Thurston Arthritis Research Center (TARC) at UNC have obtained critical new insights into some of the biological mechanisms that cause lupus.  And now, funding received from the Lupus Research Institute promises to help them continue advancing basic and clinical research that may help enable the development of new drugs in the future.

Lupus, an often debilitating autoimmune disease, results from the human body mistakenly attacking healthy cells and thereby damaging patients’ tissues and organs.  Exactly how this happens is not well understood, but one key aspect of this process is now clearer, thanks to the work of researchers at TARC.

“In all individuals, cells and tissues naturally die off and need to be removed from the body,” says Barbara Vilen, PhD, and Associate Professor of Microbiology & Immunology.  “This clearing process is performed by a biological structure within the cell called a lysosome.  We have learned that in people with lupus, the activity of the lysosomes may be impaired in very specific ways.  As a consequence the person’s body accumulates cellular waste that is not properly removed, causing their immune systems to produce auto-antibodies (proteins that attack the body’s cells), which leads to damage of healthy tissues.”  In essence, the body mistakes the remaining cellular waste as foreign invaders and goes on the attack.

Jennifer Rogers, MD, a rheumatologist and assistant professor of medicine, adds that extensive laboratory research performed at TARC is now being validated in human patients, and it is shedding new light on what’s happening with patients who have lupus.  The research center has begun enrolling patients for a cross-sectional and longitudinal clinical trial to gain additional insights among people with high and low levels of disease activity.    

“What impedes drug development for the effective treatment of lupus is the ability to identify the underlying pathways that lead to improper activation of the immune system,” says Vilen.  “Our research has now identified one of the key pathways involved with the body’s inability to degrade and clear cellular debris, which helps us better understand what mechanisms activate the immune system.  This is the first research to clearly identify and illuminate this specific mechanism of action.” 

While the research being performed at TARC is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to finding ways to combat lupus, it’s a good example of how the research center is combining strong laboratory and clinical expertise to provide the greatest opportunity to find ways to help patients in the future.

Researchers Sheikh and Kwan awarded funding to conduct study evaluating means of increasing vaccination rates via physician education

Study will evaluate means of promoting greater awareness regarding importance of immunization in patients with autoimmune and allergic respiratory disease.

Patients with chronic inflammatory disease such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are at a higher risk of infections compared to the general population.  Despite the risks, too often these patients do not receive the proper vaccinations.  The most significant barrier to achieving optimal vaccinations rates, according to the CDC, is the need for increased awareness about vaccines among patients and providers.  Two researchers at the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center feel the situation can be improved.    

Saira Sheikh, MD, an allergist/rheumatologist and assistant professor of medicine, and Mildred Kwan, MD, PhD, an allergist/immunologist and clinical assistant professor of medicine, have received funding for a research project that will address this pressing issue by developing a program designed to increase the rate of influenza and pneumococcal vaccination rates in high risk patient populations. 

The program, which will be funded by an IBM Junior Faculty Development Award, will involve physician education via a Continuing Medical Education (CME) module regarding immunization guidelines, as well as wall posters, educational pamphlets, and individual educational pocket cards with immunization algorithms to further assist doctors in determining when vaccinations are indicated for various patient types.  At its conclusion, data evaluating the success of the program will be analyzed with the hope that it can be fine-tuned, and expanded for use in primary care and other specialties. 

Dr. Allen study examining combined patient-provider interventions for osteoarthritis is published

Research Shows That Combined Patient-Provider Interventions Could Improve Function in Osteoarthritis Patients.

Dr. Allen lead author in study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, examining effectiveness of combined patient-provider interventions for improving osteoarthritis outcomes.

ACR Conference 2015

Looking back at ACR 2015 in photos

Walk with a DOC kicks off first walk of the year

Turnout from our first Walk With a Doc event (walking the 3rd Saturday of every month @ 11AM).

Walk With Ease Program adapted for SLE patients

Drs. Saira Sheikh, Katherine Kaufman and Leigh Callahan have been awarded a TraCS grant to adapt the popular Walk With Ease Program for patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus - Walk SLE.

The goal of this project is to explore the feasibility of a walking exercise program to improve mobility and quality of life for people suffering from Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). This program is based on a similar and effective program focusing on individuals with arthritis.  The proposed intervention is highly translational, and if proven to be effective, could go into practice relatively quickly.

NC TraCS is the academic home of the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA).

If interested in participating, contact:

-Malia Blue: 919.962.8241, or

-Julie Norfleet: 919.843.6619, or

Special acknowledgement of Dr. Jordan in the US Bone and Joint Initiative newsletter

David Pisetsky, MD, PhD, President of the US Bone and Joint Initiative took the opportunity to recognize and honor Dr. Jordan and her work as Chair of the Chronic Osteoarthritis Management Initiative in USBJI's latest newsletter.

Check out the full newsletter and acknowledgement with this link; 

Dr. Beth Jonas will be awarded the 2015 Distinguished Fellowship Program Director Award

Dr. Beth Jonas, our Program Director for the Rheumatology Fellowship, founding member of the Carolina Fellows Collaborative, and 2014 awardee of the ACR’s Clinician Scholar Educator Award, will be awarded the 2015 Distinguished Fellowship Program Director Award. This Award of Distinction will be presented during the Opening Ceremonies.

Drs. Jordan, Callahan, and Loeser awarded 5 year, $6.7 million grant from NIAMS for a pragmatic clinical trial of Weight loss and Exercise for Communities with Arthritis in North Carolina (“WE-CAN”)

Drs. Jordan, Callahan, and Loeser awarded 5 year, $6.7 million grant from NIAMS for a pragmatic clinical trial of Weight loss and Exercise for Communities with Arthritis in North Carolina (“WE-CAN”).

NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases announced that UNC will be part of a multi-center U01 study including Wake Forest University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital and will receive a 5 year, $6.7 million dollar grant, beginning September 1, 2015. The research study, “Weight loss and exercise for communities with arthritis in North Carolina (WE-CAN),” will implement and test the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of an evidence-based practical, diet-induced weight loss and exercise intervention that communities can implement to reduce pain and improve other clinical outcomes in people with knee osteoarthritis (OA).

Joanne M. Jordan, MD, MPH, Joseph P. Archie Eminent Professor of Medicine, Director of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center and Chief, Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology at UNC is the Co-Principal Investigator with Dr. Stephen Messier of Wake Forest University.  The UNC site leader and Co-Investigator is Leigh Callahan, PhD, Mary Link Briggs Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Director of Epidemiology and Outcomes Research at the Thurston Arthritis Research Center and Director of the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance.  Richard Loeser, MD, Herman and Louise Smith Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Director of Basic and Translational Science at Thurston is co-investigator.  Adjunct Professor of Medicine Kate T. Queen, MD, will lead the effort in Haywood County.

Drs. Jordan, Callahan, Loeser, and Queen will supervise and execute a diet and exercise intervention program, working closely with community partners in Johnston and Haywood counties.  Their goals will be to determine whether an evidence-based diet and moderate exercise intervention can be implemented successfully in community-based settings in North Carolina with diverse residential (from urban to rural) and socioeconomic patterns to decrease knee pain in overweight and obese adults with knee OA, relative to a physician advice comparator group. The study will also ascertain the cost-effectiveness of the pragmatic community-based multimodal program, and conduct a budgetary impact analysis to facilitate implementation of such a program in community settings across the United States.

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