Uncovering arthritis in Johnston County

When she was 6 years old, Joanne Jordan saw something on TV that she would never forget. The screen filled with images of a child with an enormous belly and her feet in a stream, surrounded by flies and filth.

“I saw medicine as my way of giving back for having the good luck of being born in the United States to a family who loved me and could care for me,” Jordan said.

Now, Jordan directs the Thurston Arthritis Research Center in the UNC School of Medicine. She also is the principal investigator of the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project, the first study to examine the causes of this condition in both African Americans and Caucasians in the rural North Carolina county. It uncovered that there are more arthritis cases there than elsewhere in the country and that osteoarthritis affects different joints in African Americans than in Caucasians.

Jordan holds the Joseph P. Archie, Jr. Eminent Professorship of Medicine. Funding from the professorship and the L. Jack and Ella Shaw Spiers Foundation supports her work, along with grants from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health.

This is story number 106 in the Carolina Stories 225th Anniversary Edition magazine.

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