I remember forty years ago when my grandmother would get gold shots in her knees to help with her rheumatism. Not only did she periodically get the gold shots, she was on such a high dosage of aspirin that she often had ringing in her ears. She also had large nodes on her fingers and trouble with her hands. Like many people of her age, she wasn’t a complainer, but she was not able to do many of the things she wanted to do because of her arthritis and at times she was in terrible pain. More recently, I’ve watched as my mother has developed arthritis in her hands and knees. Fortunately, it hasn’t been as severe as my grandmother’s – even so, she is not as able to do some of the activities she enjoys. I wonder what will be in store for me? What about the next generation of my family? Since before the time my grandmother, little progress has been made in preventing osteoarthritis. Limited advancements in pain medications and surgical techniques have improved treatment somewhat. However, the CDC still ranks arthritis as the leading cause of
disability in the United States. I am fortunate to be working with ARIA and it’s worldwide unique Clearwater Osteoarthritis Study (COS) database to learn more about arthritis and provide the basis for future prevention and improved treatments.
Memories of my grandmother as I was growing up in northern Minnesota, vivid as they are, did not directly propel me into arthritis research. I spent my latter teens, 20’s, and early 30’s in exploring parts of Alaska via commercial fishing and working for the US Forest Service. I managed to earn a BS in Math during this time, as well. Next I followed my interest in health and complementary medicine, attending Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Oregon. I began practicing in the Portland area; then bought a small practice on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. This
was a very interesting place to live and practice. In this medically under-served area, settled by whites and black slaves in the 1600’s (Martha Washington’s family had a plantation here), it was not uncommon to treat patients who were related and had problems. In treating multiple generations in some families, I was able to see what similar problems looked like in different life stages, but in real time. As would be expected, many of the older people I saw had complications due to arthritis. Many of the younger people I saw had injuries that would likely lead to arthritis. The middle-aged folks were in transition, beginning to experience some of the earlier symptoms of arthritis. This progression that I observed in my patients mirrored what I was seeing in my own family.
Although I loved my practice, in 2005 I sold it following a car accident that left me physically unable to continue to treat patients. Combining both my educational backgrounds (math & health), health research seemed a logical next step. In 2009, I graduated from the University of South Florida in Tampa with a Master’s of Public Health in Epidemiology. I began working with the ARIA research team in 2010. I am very excited to be able to apply my professional, educational, and personal experiences and observations in osteoarthritis research. As we are able to access
more of the COS data, I anticipate new findings which may, some day, lead to preventing and more effectively treating osteoarthritis. It is my hope that the next generations of my family and your, won’t experience what my grandmother did.