The Arthritis Newsletter

Fall 2018

Arthritis Research Canada Trainees Tackle Tough Issues to Improve Patient Care

By Katie LeBlanc (PhD, RNCP, APAB member), Shanon McQuitty (APAB member) and Louella Sequeira (APAB member)


People living with arthritis have a lot to look forward to when it comes to arthritis research. Now, more than ever, studies are reflecting the patient voice and addressing concerns that are of great interest to us. In this article, we highlight some of the exciting new research projects that PhD trainees at Arthritis Research Canada (ARC) are about to embark on after winning CIHR Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship Awards valued at $105,000 over a three-year period.  


Improving access to arthritis care


Elena Lopatina is a physician by training who is completing a PhD in Health Economics at the University of Calgary. She is passionate about illness prevention and holistic care for patients with chronic diseases.


She will examine a model of care that incorporates nurses into the patient experience at rheumatologist offices. In this model, a patient would first visit with and be assessed by a nurse. The rheumatologist would then answer any outstanding questions and perform additional assessments.


“This model of care could reduce wait times and give patients better access to rheumatologists,” Lopatina said.


It has never been formally evaluated in a Canadian setting, but Lopatina plans to test the model in a Calgary-based rheumatology clinic. Her research has the potential to increase quality of care and provide arthritis patients with a more holistic approach to managing their diseases – not just in Canada but around the world.  


Small steps to pain management


Jesse Charlton is a student in the Rehabilitation Sciences program at the University of British Columbia. He is spearheading a study that aims to find non-pharmaceutical and non-surgical interventions to help people with osteoarthritis relieve knee pain and improve function.


He wants patients to know that pain medication and joint replacement surgery are not the only options.


“Small changes to how people walk can alter the forces they place on knee joints and can result in the improvement of symptoms,” Charlton said.


His research will involve using discrete sensors that fit into shoes and measure and store information about daily walking motions. The sensors will help answer important questions about how people perform and follow walking-based treatment programs.


“The aim of this work is to show how small changes to the way a person walks can help reduce pain and decrease disease progression over the long term,” Charlton said.  


At the crossroads of arthritis and mental health


Alyssa Howren developed a strong interest in the connection between mental health and arthritis after noticing a high prevalence of anxiety and depression in patients diagnosed with the disease.


“Little is known about the risk of being diagnosed with anxiety and depression after an arthritis diagnosis,” Howren said. “Knowing this risk could help medical providers assess when to screen and treat patients.”


Howren will lead a research project that will specifically address the gaps that exist in the connection between arthritis and mental health.


“It’s unclear how patients with arthritis are being treated for mental illness compared to the general population,” she said. “This research seeks to improve overall care for those with arthritis.”


Howren’s research will use British Columbia’s population-based health administrative data, but the study will have greater national and international implications. It will raise awareness about the importance of mental health screening in treatment plans for those with chronic diseases.


These three PhD projects provide some insight into the influential research being conducted at Arthritis Research Canada. All three researchers plan to include the patient voice in their research through consultation with the Arthritis Patient Advisory Board (APAB).


If you’re interested in becoming a patient partner with researchers at ARC, consider joining our volunteer team at APAB to be part of the research experience and direction.


We are excited for the results of these projects and look forward to seeing how the research will impact those with arthritis in Canada and abroad.  

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