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The Thurston Arthritis Research Center’s Clinical and Epidemiological Research is investigating risk factors, outcomes, and interventions for conditions relevant to rheumatology, allergy and immunology.

Clinical and Epidemiological Research — Faculty and Primary Focus:

Thurston researchers are exploring the best ways to utilize tools such as ‘evidence-based’ exercise interventions to help reduce symptoms for people with osteoarthritis.

Kelli Allen, PhD:
Professor of Medicine
Improving care and outcomes for individuals with musculoskeletal and rheumatological conditions, with an emphasis on health disparities.
-More information about Dr. Allen’s research

Leigh Callahan, PhD: 
Mary Link Briggs Distinguished Professor of Medicine
Extensive arthritis and outcomes research, mortality and osteoarthritis, physical activity intervention, health disparities, health literacy, and community-based physical activity interventions.  Dr. Callahan is also director of the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance, a coalition of more than 135 organizations mobilized to advance The National Public Health Agenda.
-More information about Dr. Callahan’s research

Rebecca Cleveland, PhD:
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Research into osteoarthritis epidemiology, including physical activity in those with osteoarthritis as well as mortality outcomes associated with osteoarthritis and related comorbidities. Interests also include physical activity, OA-related disability and sociodemographic predictors of OA.
-More information about Dr. Cleveland’s research

Scott P. Commins, MD, PhD:
Associate Professor of Medicine
Food allergy to red meat – alpha-gal syndrome; including why allergic reactions are delayed 3-6 hours after eating, and the role that tick bites may have in initiating allergic response to the carbohydrate galactose-alpha-1, 3 galactose (“alpha-gal”).  In addition, study of allergic reactions to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.
-More Information about Dr. Commins’ research

UNC Immuno-Oncology Group
The IOG is a collaborative, multidisciplinary group composed of clinicians and researchers from the fields of rheumatology, oncology, cardiology, dermatology, and others.

Yvonne Golightly, PT, MS, PhD: 
Associate Professor of Epidemiology
Modifiable risk factors for osteoarthritis, musculoskeletal injury, and musculoskeletal disorders in order to develop and implement approaches to prevent and treat these conditions.
-More information about Dr. Golightly’s research

Rumey Ishizawar, MD, PhD:
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Director of the UNC Rheumatology Fellowship Training Program
Retrospective and prospective studies examining immune related adverse events (irAEs) in oncology patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) to understand the mechanisms of autoimmunity versus tolerance in the immune system, especially the pathogenesis of rare autoimmune conditions. The UNC Immuno-Oncology Group (IOG), under Dr. Ishizawar’s leadership, recently developed an evidence-based compilation of interdisciplinary clinical algorithms for identifying and managing immune related adverse events.
-More information about Dr. Ishizawar’s research

Amanda Nelson, MD, MSCR, RhMSUS:
Associate Professor of Medicine
Research is focused on a variety of aspects of osteoarthritis (OA), including the contribution of bone shape to OA risk, novel methodologies for analysis of large and complex datasets, ultrasound in OA, and assessment of whole-body burden of OA.
-More information about Dr. Nelson’s research

The Johnston County Osteoarthritis  Project has resulted in more than 70 supplemental studies. This premiere, longitudinal research project — located in Johnston County, NC — has run continuously for more than 25 years.

Saira Sheikh, MD:
Linda Coley Sewell Distinguished Professor of Medicine
Associate Professor of Medicine
Comprehensive research in the areas of lupus, Sjogren’s & autoimmunity, with a focus on both clinical and  translational science. Interested in developing diagnostic assays and potential biomarkers for autoimmune diseases, and incorporates a multi-disciplinary platform that emphasizes team science, as well as a robust multidisciplinary clinical trials program. Dr. Sheikh is also working on a national level to help address racial disparities and promote inclusion and diversity in lupus clinical trials.
-More information about Dr. Sheikh’s research

Sandra Soto, PhD, MPH:
Assistant Professor of Nursing
The social influences of physical activity and dietary intake among Latinos. By incorporating Latino cultural values, Dr. Soto’s research aims to develop effective behavioral modification interventions to prevent and manage chronic diseases including osteoarthritis.
-More information about Dr. Soto’s research


Affiliated Research Faculty and Primary Focus:

Tamara Baker, PhD (School of Medicine, Psychiatry)
Pain management, health disparities, social determinants of health

Jason Franz, PhD (Biomedical Engineering)
Neuromuscular biomechanics, sensorimotor control, aging and age-related mobility impairment

Steve Marshall, PhD (Epidemiology; Global Public Health)
Injury epidemiology, including musculoskeletal and sports medicine

Brian Pietrosimone, PhD, ATC (Exercise and Sport Science)
Epidemiology and prevention of osteoarthritis following joint injury

Todd Schwartz, DRPH (Biostatistics; Global Public Health)
Biostatistics and methods for epidemiology studies & trials in osteoarthritis

Jeff Spang, MD (Orthopedics – Sports Medicine)
Biomarkers and treatment of joint injuries

Eveline Wu, MD (Pediatrics; Allergy, Immunology, Rheumatology)
Autoimmunity, immunodeficiency, complement system