Leigh Callahan, PhD
Leigh F. Callahan, PhD

Some might say pursuing research in the health arena is a bit like the question about the “chicken or the egg.” Is it more important to study the causes and impacts of disease, or to instead pursue the development of innovative new treatments?

The philosophy of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center is that not only are both approaches equally important, but they are strongest when they function collaboratively so that each sheds light upon the other. This means the Center’s clinicians and researchers who are treating patients each day work closely with their epidemiology-focused colleagues, who are actively exploring how rheumatologic diseases and allergies emerge, impact patient populations, and can be better managed by individuals as well as communities. The full clinical and epidemiologic expertise from some of the country’s leading MDs, PhDs, PTs, and affiliated experts is brought to bear via an integrated approach that is based on a foundation of innovative thinking and problem solving.

Examples of some of our main research focus areas include:

  • Population based studies of osteoarthritis and disability
    Large, ongoing population-based study – known as The Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project – initiated over 25 years ago. It has generated more than 70 supplemental and ancillary trials focused on numerous factors influencing the development, management, and impact of osteoarthritis. For more information, contact: Amanda Nelson, MD or Yvonne Golightly, PT, PhD.
  • Social determinants and health outcomes
    Observational research measuring associations of factors such as age, gender, education, ethnicity and place of residence with a range of health outcomes including disability, pain and psychosocial factors in patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. For more information, contact: Leigh F. Callahan, PhD.
  • Health impact of variances in anatomic and biomechanical factors

    measuring foot arch
    Measuring foot arch

    Research program investigating the association between factors such as leg length inequality, arch of the foot, foot type, and similar measures, as related to development of lower limb osteoarthritis. For more information, contact: Yvonne Golightly, PT, PhD, or Amanda Nelson, MD.

  • Community-based physical activity and weight loss intervention trials
    Evaluating and establishing the evidence-base for physical activity interventions that can be implemented in the community setting, e.g., Weight Loss and Exercise for Communities with Arthritis in North Carolina (WE-CAN), Walk With Ease, Camine con Gusto (the Spanish language version of Walk With Ease), and Active Living Everyday. For more information, contact: Leigh F. Callahan, PhD.
  • Comparative Effectiveness Trials
    Comparing traditional physical therapy to internet-based exercise programs and STAART (Pain Coping Skills Training for African Americans with Osteoarthritis). For more information, contact Kelli Allen, PhD.
  • Injury prevention and Post-Traumatic Osteoarthritis
    Injury/musculoskeletal epidemiology research focused on identifying modifiable risk factors for osteoarthritis and evaluating outcomes of post-traumatic osteoarthritis. For more information, contact: Yvonne Golightly, PT, PhD.
  • Novel approaches to the use of imaging technologies in osteoarthritis
    Use of innovative methods to analyze relationships between imaging (ultrasound, x-ray) features such as joint shape and osteoarthritis risk. For more information, contact: Amanda Nelson, MD.
  • Health literacy
    Health Literacy Toolkit

    Development of a “Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit” designed to help clinical practice settings in working with individuals with all levels of health literacy. For more information, contact: Leigh F. Callahan, PhD.

  • Mortality and osteoarthritis
    Studies evaluating the role of knee and hip osteoarthritis (alone and in combination with co-morbid conditions) and mortality. For more information, contact: Leigh F. Callahan, PhD, or Rebecca J. Cleveland.
  • Food allergies including alpha-gal meat allergy
    Clinical and laboratory-based exploration of ways to better identify and manage symptoms of this often undiagnosed, and rapidly growing allergy. For more information, contact: Scott Commins, MD, PhD or Edwin Kim, MD.

Affiliated Research Faculty and Primary Focus:

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