Joanne M. Jordan, MD, MPH

Learn about our exciting leadership changes, and get the latest updates regarding research and treatment of rheumatologic, allergy and immunologic diseases.

Sometimes research moves straight ahead in a steady and methodical manner, and sometimes it provides fresh perspectives that lead us forward in new directions.  Both ways are valid and both are very exciting. 

The same can be said of leadership.  So it is with excitement and great pride in my colleagues that I’m able to share some very good news regarding recent changes and advancements here at UNC. 

After two years as Executive Associate Dean in the office of UNC Faculty Affairs and Leadership Development, I will now assume the role of Vice Dean.  Taking my place on July 1st as Director of the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center – where I have been privileged to serve the past 10 years – is Dr. Richard Loeser.  He has done a wonderful job heading the Center’s Basic and Translational Research, and will be accompanied by the Center’s renowned epidemiologist and arthritis researcher Leigh Callahan, PhD, who will now be Associate Director.

Another esteemed colleague with whom I have worked for many years, Beth Jonas, MD, will serve as Interim Chief of the UNC Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology.  In addition to her roles with the Division, she will continue to head our Rheumatology Fellowship Program.  For additional detail on the recent transitions, feel free to read a news update on our website.

As I reflect on these changes I realize more than ever, what a tremendous privilege it has been to directly care for patients and their families, help lead research teams that are shaping the way we view and treat diseases, and foster the careers of tomorrow’s rheumatologists and allergists/immunologists.  I look forward to continuing to support the academic success of our many talented clinicians, educators, and researchers in my position within the Dean’s office. 

We also have some wonderful news to share related to ongoing research at our Center.  

For example, Dr. Richard Loeser is examining how our high-fat and high-sugar Western diets can cause inflammation, and as a result might be linked to development of osteoarthritis – the most common type of arthritis and a major cause of disability in the U.S.  The findings from this research may one day help scientists develop novel and individualized therapies for patients. 

In this issue of our Thurston Today newsletter you will learn about additional research focused on finding new ways to help patients.  A few examples include:    

  • Losing weight, keeping it off, and sticking to an exercise routine can be difficult for anyone.  Unfortunately, it is particularly challenging for many arthritis patients.  That’s why epidemiologist Leigh Callahan, PhD, is helping to lead a research team focused on designing an innovative diet-induced weight loss and exercise program that can be rolled out for – and effectively used by – arthritis patients in community settings.  
  • While X-rays and MRIs are important tools for examining the joints of patients with arthritis, they have significant limitations that may be avoided by using more readily available, less costly, and sometimes more useful tools such as ultrasound.  Amanda Nelson, MD, a rheumatologist and expert in musculoskeletal ultrasound technology, is exploring innovative ways to use this flexible technology to help doctors better assess, monitor, and develop treatment plans for arthritis patients.   
  • By conducting innovative, “next generation” clinical trials designed to focus on the direct molecular pathways for lupus, Saira Sheikh, MD, and her team hope to develop highly targeted new therapeutic treatment options for this disease.   

 Elsewhere at Thurston, other exciting developments are taking place:  

  • Allergists Maya Jerath, MD, PhD; and Scott Commins, MD, PhD, are conducting important research into a poorly understood and often undiagnosed red-meat allergy named, “Alpha-gal.”   
  • Leading food allergy expert Edwin Kim, MD, is investigating innovative new treatments for peanut and other food allergies.
  • Saira Sheikh, MD; and Millie Kwan, MD, PhD, have developed an important new program to help address the widespread problem in the U.S. of patients with inflammatory diseases not receiving critical immunizations.
  • Researchers Kelli Allen, PhD; and Yvonne Golightly, PhD, are exploring the effectiveness of novel exercise programs for individuals with osteoarthritis.
  • Doug Phanstiel, PhD and his Thurston colleagues are conducting exciting genomics research designed to provide new insights into the immune response and inflammation.
  • Thurston researchers continue to share new scientific data at leading health conferences.

 I hope you enjoy this issue of Thurston Today.  Look for additional updates to come, as there is a lot more wonderful news we look forward to sharing in the future.

Be well,

Joanne M. Jordan, MD, MPH
Joseph P. Archie, Jr. Eminent Professor of Medicine
Vice Dean, UNC Faculty Affairs and Leadership Development   

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