Profile in Research: Jeffrey Curtis, MD, MPH
Dr. Curtis is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He is a co-investigator on five UAB Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics projects. He is a current recipient of an Arthritis Foundation Arthritis Investigator Award for a project entitled “Osteoporosis and associated strokes and myocardial infarction in a multiethnic cohort.”
How do you think your research will impact your community?
Undertreatment of individuals with osteoporosis is widespread on a national basis, and our past work at the UAB Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics has shown that Alabama is no exception. My expectation is that my ongoing research will enable physicians to better evaluate individuals at high risk for fracture and initiate preventive measures to reduce the substantial morbidity associated with osteoporosis.
How would you ultimately like to see your research applied?
An international group is currently working on methods to estimate absolute fracture risk for individuals, much like we use the Framingham risk score for cardiovascular disease. However, most of our data are for postmenopausal Caucasian women, since men and non-Caucasians are typically underrepresented in osteoporosis studies. The focus of my project is to better understand absolute fracture risk related to particular risk factors in these demographic groups. Through this research, I hope to enable clinicians to identify individuals at-risk for poor outcomes related to osteoporosis and promote more appropriate use of preventive therapies.
What are your impressions of the Arthritis Foundation?
Very favorable. The local chapter of the Foundation is quite visible in our community and is clearly making an impact, both for researchers and for our patients through the resources they provide.
What role do you feel the Arthritis Foundation plays in the progress of arthritis research?
Among many roles for the Foundation, their focus on support for new investigators has been a remarkable asset. The beginning stages of an academic career are particularly challenging, and it’s been tremendous to see the Arthritis Foundation assisting new faculty reach their goals of becoming established, independent investigators.
Given the prevalence of arthritis, do you have a personal connection that makes the disease more than a statistic to you?
Yes, both my parents have knee osteoarthritis and my mother-in-law has osteoporosis. All of them require long-term therapy for these conditions, and my mother has undergone bilateral knee replacements. Thus, the impact of arthritis is manifest to my extended family on a daily basis.
Considering all the conditions in need of your research, what are the mysteries surrounding arthritis that interest you most?
Although there are many intriguing questions that need to be answered, one of the most practical issues facing us is how clinicians can best evaluate the available therapies against one another, make patient-specific treatment decisions regarding risk and benefits, and communicate that information to patients. We have a dizzying array of options to treat arthritis, yet studies of comparative effectiveness are scarce, beneficial drugs are underutilized, and the newest drugs are often prescribed without clear evidence of benefit and safety over existing therapies. We as clinicians also have little grasp of how to prospectively identify those who are likely to respond to particular drugs. Better methods and research that can help both clinicians and policymakers make these kinds of decisions are badly needed.
When not in the lab, where can you most often be found?
Playing at the park with my three children.
If you weren’t a researcher, what would you be doing now?
Captaining a large sailboat in the Caribbean.