Arthritis isn’t just a few painful joints. It’s a serious disease that affects people’s quality of life. And it can make it difficult to work and play.
Few know this better than The Vancouver Clinic rheumatologist Dr. Lisa Vasanth, who has devoted her career to researching arthritis and treating patients who suffer from it.
This weekend, Dr. Vasanth is getting some much-deserved recognition for her work. The Arthritis Foundation, one of the leading nonprofit organizations for arthritis sufferers, has named her the medical honoree of the 2017 Walk to Cure Arthritis.
“Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in our country and is a serious disease,” says Dr. Vasanth. “In Oregon and Washington alone, there are more than 2.1 million people, including 9,500 kids, living with arthritis. By standing together at the Walk to Cure Arthritis, we are making a difference in our community.”
A passion for changing lives
Dr. Vasanth first became involved with the foundation 15 years ago. She accepted a fellowship award at the Hospital for Special Surgery, which is connected to Cornell University. The Arthritis Foundation helped support the position. While there, Dr. Vasanth researched rheumatoid arthritis—which is caused by problems with the immune system. She also studied imaging techniques.
After several years, Dr. Vasanth switched her focus from research to education and patient treatment.
“With an autoimmune disease, there are often flares that come out of the blue or can’t be predicted,” she says. “That can really affect the person and cause issues with their ability to make plans.”
Helping individuals manage their arthritis and do the things they want to do in life brings Dr. Vasanth great satisfaction. That goes for older patients suffering from osteoarthritis and her much younger patients as well.
“A lot of women develop arthritis in their late 20s or 30s, when they are thinking of starting families,” she says. “You can really completely change a person’s life. You can see someone with lupus or rheumatoid arthritis and can give them back their life. You can change someone from being quite disabled to doing everything they want to do.”
While in New York, Dr. Vasanth also helped coordinate the Arthritis Foundation’s annual walk. “Part of what attracted me to the walk is that you see all these people—kids who have arthritis and older people—and you see how they’re doing over time.”
When Dr. Vasanth moved to Vancouver 10 months ago, the Portland chapter reached out to her. Now, with the support of The Vancouver Clinic and our other rheumatology doctors, she’s helping the Arthritis Foundation to meet its fundraising goals.
The foundation will use the money it raises to advocate for affordable health care and innovative treatments, connect patients to resources and specialists, and continue the search for a cure.
“Our hope is that as we continue to understand more about the immune system, and understand the different pathways that lead to diseases, that we can continue to make advances,” says Dr. Vasanth.