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Arthritis research gets million-dollar boost


Vancouver, BC – Totalling over one million dollars over the next four years, five different recipients in British Columbia have been awarded grants to help them move forward with research projects that will directly affect those in BC and the Yukon living with arthritis.

“We are very pleased to invest in their work as part of the Arthritis Society’s continuing effort to search for a cure and improved treatments,” says Nancy Roper, executive director of the Arthritis Society, BC & Yukon Division.

Dr. Mary De Vera, assistant professor with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia and research scientist at the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada, is a pharmacoepidemiologist who will be studying the impact of arthritis drugs taken during pregnancy on mothers and their babies with her Young Investigator Operating Grant. Her team will study whether taking arthritis medications during pregnancy leads to miscarriages, prematurity, and birth defects. Dr. De Vera says, “…this is the first study that will research pregnancy and arthritis medications at a large-scale population level.”

Receiving the Arthritis Society Models of Care Catalyst Grant is Dr. Linda Li, Associate Professor and Harold Robinson/The Arthritis Society chair in Arthritic Diseases at the UBC Department of Physical Therapy, and senior scientist at the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada. The research funding sill be used to explore the improvement of physical activity in arthritis care in the digital age. “Symptom management through physical activity is critical to a better quality of life for arthritis patients,” says Dr. Li. “There are lots of new technological tools available. How do we leverage them to improve physical activity and patient care? With this grant, we will get crucial information on how to make those new technologies more useful for patients and for their healthcare providers to monitor patients’ health status.”

Dr. Michael Hunt has been awarded The Arthritis Society Strategic Operating Grant. The focus of his clinical investigation will be to examine the effects of a walking retraining program for those with osteoarthritis (OA) on symptoms and progression. “This grant enables us to look at how changing one’s walking pattern affects the forces that pass through the knee joint as well as symptoms such as joint pain and function,” he says. “This is an emerging area of research and has great potential given that it is a non-surgical and non-pharmaceutical treatment that can be delivered with minimal resources or expenses.” Dr. Hunt is a physiotherapist and assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at UBC.

Dr. Shahin Jamal is the successful applicant for the Clinician Teacher/Educator Award, and is both a rheumatologist and a clinical associate professor at UBC. Dr. Jamal will be using her grant to develop a multi-tiered approach to the continued development of rheumatology training. Her goal is to increase awareness and interest in rheumatology and ensure a quality training program for medical residents. “Despite increased demand, the number of rheumatologists in North America has been decreasing. Medical students need additional and earlier exposure to patients and ‘shadowing’ opportunities in clinical practice where they can develop an ongoing interest in the specialty,” she says.

Also a recipient of The Arthritis Society Model of Care Catalyst Grant is Dr. Carlo Marra, a professor in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UBC. A trained pharmacist, Dr. Marra will be exploring a team approach to knee OA that would involve pharmacists in neighbourhood drugstores helping to identify people with knee pain and potential OA. This research will expand upon a controlled trial and will focus on a collaborative approach to knee OA care where pharmacist-initiated intervention can provide better care that is timely and appropriate.